Trade unions and UCT reach an agreement

Workers sitting outside the administration building at UCT while their leaders meet with management inside. Photo by Mfundo Mhlanganiso

The struggle for better working conditions for workers at institutions of higher learning continues after they were insourced due to pressure from workers and students during #FeesMustFall.

Four trade unions at the University of Cape Town have reached an agreement with the institution over the issue of deep cleaning renumeration and the inclusion of trade unions in the selection and recruitment of staff.  Cleaners, bus drivers, catering, security and garden workers have been on strike since 10 September after some cleaners downed tools demanding better pay. According to Mzomhle Bixa, the four trade unions reached an agreement with UCT which will see the cleaners being paid R400 for deep cleaning; previously they were paid R350.

“The agreement that we reached with UCT is that deep cleaning of residences will be paid R1,600 [in] four months. This means that the cleaners will be paid R400 on top of their salaries,” said Bixa from the University Allied Workers Union. The other three unions that were involved in the dispute are the South African Liberated Public Sector Workers Union (SALIPSWU), the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) and the Democratised Transport Logistics and Allied Workers Union (DETAWU). The fifth union which was not part of the strike according to Bixa is the UCT Employees Union.

Elitsha was at UCT last week when the workers were striking and spoke to them and worker leaders. University Allied Workers Union’s organiser Clide Fredericks said that they sought the intervention of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) on both issues but their differences remained unresolved.

“The issue of having a union represantative in selection and recruitment affects all the sectors at UCT and that is why we are all here today,” he said.

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“With deep cleaning we use a lot of chemicals and that is why we want to be paid better wages for it,” said a cleaner who wanted to remain anonymous.

According to the SALIPSWU shopsteward at UCT, Thuliswa Nocanda, they work up to 8 hours a day and when people are on sick leave they still need to cover the same area size when cleaning. “We don’t get replacements like other sectors when one of us are on a sick leave,” she said. “We are on pay scale 2; we earn R9,479.86 before deductions. When we were outsourced we were told that the scale was abolished a long time ago but they had to pay us that. Even our supervisors are not on the same level as other sectors,” she stated.

“As cleaners we only clean the common areas like passages, TV room, toilets and bathrooms. We don’t clean the rooms. We only clean the rooms during vacation, so during vacation our work changes, it becomes like working in a hotel,” said Nocanda.

Meanwhile Mapule Melesi who works in the kitchen as part of catering staff complained about not being remunerated for overtime over the weekends. “We are on the same payscale as the cleaners. We get the same salary even though they don’t work on weekends,” she said. Melesi claimed that the university still uses labour brokers and that they have to train the casuals that are from time to time brought in and that they are not compensated for this. “We want to move from payscale one to four,” she stated.

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On the inclusion of trade union representatives in selection and recruitment processes, according to Bixa in the past there were no workers representation from pay class 1 to 12. “This meant that the powers were given to the chairperson who is also a line manager or the head of the unit. The chairperson could amend the requirements to suit the person that they want without involving Human Resources. The position could be amended up to three times,” explained Bixa.

The workers that Elitsha spoke to complained of nepotism in various departments. “We have agreed to amend the policy to accommodate trade unions but it still has to be approved by the university council. The positions that are currently advertised will include trade union representatives. Each union will elect four shopstewards to be trained,” he said.

The UCT Left Students who supported the workers during the strike said that they supported the demands of the workers.

“Normal services have resumed at the university and we are monitoring the implementation of the agreement,” said Bixa.



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