Andries Bezuidenhout. Hieroor kan ek nie gedigte skryf nie

ʼn Paar jaar gelede het die universiteit waar ek werk, die Universiteit van die Witwatersrand, besluit om die skoonmaakdienste uit te kontrakteer. Al die permanente werkers in hierdie dienste is afgedank en sommige van hulle is deur die nuwe kontrakteurs aangestel teen die helfte van hul vorige salarisse en sonder ʼn mediese fonds of personeelbeurse vir hul kinders. Lees meer daaroor hier. Die universiteit is doof vir kritiek hieroor, selfs nadat die impak van die proses op die werknemers in akademiese tydskrifte gepubliseer is. Lees hier. Sowat ʼn week gelede stuur ons registrateur die volgende briefie:

“As you are aware, Impact and Supercare are providers of cleaning services to the University. During its annual budgeting process, the University management became aware of economic challenges which will impact its operations extensively during 2010.  These challenges necessitated the University embarking on a large-scale budget reduction exercise. One of the areas identified for cost savings by University management is cleaning. Consequently, the University had no option but to inform the Service Providers that the University has decided to reduce its utilization and frequency of specific cleaning services currently provided, with effect from1 January 2010. This means that there will be a reduction of the cleaning staff complement at the University. This was announced to the staff of Supercare and Impact on 1 December 2009. In January, when the University has a clear understanding of the nature of the service that will be rendered, a further communiqué will follow. The retrenchment notices that have been served on Supercare staff are clearly ones that evoke emotion. Staff who wish to enter into communication regarding this matter should preferably channel their concerns through their line managers, so that the relevant member of the executive can be informed appropriately. Such communication should not be directed to the service provider/s.”

Mooi beplan. Kondig dit aan as die meeste akademici weg is op vakansie, die studente nie meer op die kampus is nie. Ek verneem by van die werkers dat hulle ses maande gelede ʼn klousule moes onderteken dat hulle aanvaar dat hulle dienskontrakte beëindig word as die universiteit hul kontrak met die diensverskaffer kanselleer. Die werkers en van die akademiese personeel het vandag in Jorissenstraat in Braamfontein betoog. Ek het een fotograaf van ʼn koerant gesien, nie ʼn enkele televisiekamera nie. Nou wonder ek wat werklik die verskil tussen die video by die Reitzkoshuis is en wat hierdie sogenaamde liberale universiteit kort voor Kersfees doen om geld te bespaar.

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2 Kommentare op “Andries Bezuidenhout. Hieroor kan ek nie gedigte skryf nie”

  1. Andries Bezuidenhout :

    Die volgende brief is deur van my kollegas aan die bestuur gestuur. Well said, indeed:

    Dear Professor Nongxa, Professor Ballim & Dr Swemmer

    At WISER, we are shocked about the looming retrenchment of Supercare staff members. We are also concerned about changes made recently to the service contracts of Supercare staff. These changes render even more tenuous the job security of Supercare staff members who stay on after the cuts.

    We have been informed that the university is experiencing financial difficulties. We would welcome a broad, inclusive discussion on the nature of these financial difficulties. We would like to participate in a process that considers options for minimising expenditure. In doing so, we would like to look for alternatives to undercutting our colleagues’ job security and compromising the quality of maintenance, cleanliness and hygiene on the University campuses.

    Cleaning is a basic service. The level of this service cannot be reduced without accepting lower standards. To lower service levels (and cut down on the number of cleaning staff) precisely at the moment that the university is expanding its physical infrastructure, does not seem sound. If its financial difficulties are severe, the amount of money such saved is unlikely to rescue the institution. If, however, the University is dealing with short-term cash flow problems, surely we could have agreed collectively to emergency measures to save money and avoid this turn of events.

    You know, of course, that the decision to outsource cleaning services at this University led to significant job losses as well as substantial reductions in the salaries of staff members employed by the subcontractor. Current salaries paid to Supercare staff can be considered, at best, as breadline salaries.

    In relation to the status of Supercare workers at Wits in general, and more specifically the changes in the conditions of service and the planned retrenchments of Supercare staff, we would therefore like to make four points:

    1. Arguments in favour of outsourcing so-called non-core business do not rely principally on the low salaries paid to subcontracted workers. Instead, the benefits of outsourcing are usually articulated in terms of the perceived need for a specialised service that also offers improved efficiency. In practice, however, in the case of a non-specialist service, such as cleaning, the real benefit that is accrued to the outsourcing institution is derived from unsustainably low salary levels paid by the subcontractor and the job insecurity of workers. This casts the outsourcing institution in a very dark light. Wits is always responsible for what its subcontracted cleaning staff are earning. But, more than that, Wits is responsible not only for what Supercare staff members are earning right now, but also for the upcoming retrenchments.

    2. An effect of outsourcing is that staff members of outsourced companies are not regarded as part of the institutions at which they are based. The retrenchment of Supercare workers is therefore not seen as the retrenchment of Wits workers. In effect, however, beyond the fine print of whatever agreements may be in place, staff members of Supercare are our colleagues. We work together daily. We mutually create a sense of collegiality and community. Supercare staff members are here every day. They are often the first staff members to arrive and the last ones to leave. Supercare staff make a substantial and essential contribution to Wits’ ability to deliver quality education and research. Indeed, to make a complex institution like Wits work, requires flexibility, dedication and a commitment to a broader project by all staff. We have been most fortunate to have received cleaning services of high quality and to work with dedicated and committed staff members.

    3. The paternalistic and racist relations between students and cleaning staff at the University of the Free State that came to light as a result of the Reitz incident made headline news. The planned retrenchment of Supercare workers at the University of the Witwatersrand, on the other hand, is unlikely to attract the same attention. Yet, the claims made that Supercare workers are not our colleagues; that these staff members are not Wits employees; that they are working on university premises but are not part of us; and the practice that when a Supercare staff member dies, there is no university representative attending the (on-campus) memorial service, reveal the dark underbelly of so-called liberal institutions. Holding on at all costs to the technical agreements that protect and remove Wits from its responsibility towards subcontracted staff, effectively turns Supercare staff members into invisibles; ghost workers.

    4. It is only those of us who feel highly protected by service contracts and other regulatory frameworks that do not recognise in this move (the announcement of retrenchments and cuts just before Christmas) the insecurity of all of us who are employed by Wits.

  2. Charl-Pierre :

    Dis so verblydend. daar is slegs een manier vorentoe, en dit is om verantwoordelikheid te neem vir alle kollegas, en alle burgers is ons kollegas. Julle het iets om op trots te wees NA so ‘n memorandum, Andries.

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