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Student bodies to march against outsourcing of cleaning staff

Protests have once again hit universities in South Africa and this time, it is student backing up cleaning staff and demanding universities to cut ties with outsourced cleaning companies. The Rhodes Must Fall, together with student bodies at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), will march against the outsourcing of cleaning staff at tertiary institutions.

The transformation group behind the removal of the Cecil John Rhodes statue off the UCT campus says it is committed to the plight of workers at the institution. Cleaning staff has asked for a salary of R10,500 and some are currently earning as little as R2,500 per month.  Rhodes Must Fall says it will represent the staff in liaising with management to address their concerns.

Rhodes Must Fall's Kealeboga Ramagu says the group will urge management to stop outsourcing cleaning staff, claiming they are under-paid and ill-treated. She claims these members of staff approached them.

“The build-up has been happening through boycotts of certain vendors at the university who’ve been exploiting the workers of some of the cafeteria staff.”

Similar campaigns are also happening in Wits University as well as UCT. In UCT, The National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) has backed cleaning staff in this labour dispute. Dozens of protesters gathered at UCT to vent their anger over the treatment of staff members who are outsourced by the universities.

Some workers, including gardeners, have downed tools and are being supported by student activists. Their downing of tools has had a negative impact on the hygiene and wellness of facilities in the university. NEHAWU has come out in support of University of Cape Town (UCT) cleaning staff members who are embroiled in a labour dispute with the university’s management.

Nehawu’s Monica Gqoji, claims they are under-paid. “These private sector companies are making profit out of public sector funding at the exploitation of labour of workers.” It is claimed that the staff members are going home with meager wages which as very little to sustain them and their families.

UCT takes action that could solve this crisis

The University of Cape Town could hike tuition fees to meet workers' demands. The workers claim that they are severely underpaid by outsourced companies & want UCT to employ them directly.

The University of Cape Town says it would have to significantly hike tuition fees to stop making use of outside companies to hire cleaning staff directly. Some UCT workers downed tools yesterday, demanding an end to outsourcing.

Dozens have demanded UCT’s management to cut ties with the outsourced companies. The National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu)’s Patricia Bevie said workers’ rights are being abused. “For example, you have people in the gardening services, you have people in the cleaning services and in the catering service that go home with R1,600. People’s salaries are about R2,500.”

A statement by the university said its council called for a review of outsourcing in 2014 and it was found in-sourcing would be too costly. The institution has refuted claims of workers being victimized.

While outsourcing may seem as the best solution for universities as it may be financially viable, it seems that employees are not content with the salaries and treatment they get from the outsourced companies. On another angle, employing these staff members directly would be very costly for universities and this will force universities to hike fees to cover these costs. It is possible that soon there might be protests about the hiked fees. It always a challenge to balance decision-making and facility managers must always be geared to deal with such predicaments of ensuring quality services are provided and remember happy employees are productive employees! What could be the possible solution to this crisis?



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