United Front calls on Wits University to guarantee rights of protest and to end policy of outsourcing
The United Front (UF) condemns the actions of Wits University management to punish the workers and students who at the end of May 2015 occupied the office of the Vice-Chancellor in support of MJL workers who have lost their jobs and income.
The workers and students were protesting against the outsourcing of services by Wits University. As a result of outsourcing many workers employed at the University have no job security whatsoever. In particular, Wits contractor MJL Electrical, since January 2015, has failed to pay workers their full salaries and to pay in UIF, tax and provident fund monies despite making deductions from workers’ wages.
Workers are unable to access these benefits. Wits management has now terminated their contract with MJL and the workers were discarded on the 1st of June with no benefits and no wages.
Following the occupation, Wits University sought and was granted an interdict by the court to stop occupation despite the fact that workers and students had by that time voluntarily ended the occupation. The interdict goes further, and is significantly more punitive, than just an order to stop the occupation. It violates students and workers’ constitutional right to protest.
Furthermore, the court granted costs against the students and workers which would render those same workers and students liable for the University’s legal expenses. Expecting students and unemployed workers to pay is ridiculous. By pursuing such an order it affects students ability to study, targets the unemployed, and curbs the right to protest and freedom of expression. How can the University do this?
How can the University be ever regarded as an institution promoting academic freedom? This action by Wits University amounts to severe political repression.
We call on Wits University to stop the effects of this interdict, and to guarantee in writing the rights of workers, students and academics to protest without let or hindrance. We also call on Wits University to end its policy of outsourcing and to provide job security to all workers who provide required and essential services at the university. This policy regards the University as a corporate entity which can easily discard workers at the whims of neo-liberal management dictates.
We call on all trade unions and other civil society organisations to stand with the MJL workers and the Wits Workers Solidarity Committee. We call for sending of protest letters to Vice-Chancellor Professor Adam Habib: email addresses – firstname.lastname@example.org and his PA: Ms. Kanina Foss Kanina.Foss@wits.ac.za, fax – 086 726 3064.
FOR COMMENTS, CONTACT:
1. Mazibuko K. Jara: UF National Secretary – 083 987 9633
2. John Appolis: UF Campaigns Coordinator – 073 408 2674
3. Siyabonga Mbuqe: Gauteng UF – 076 889 5459