- Published: Tuesday, 28 March 2017 14:26
Throughout 2015 and 2016, security workers have been fighting a struggle to be insourced at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), through #OutsourcingMustFall (#OMF). Throughout they have been facing victimisation. At the end of 2016 a new round a victimisation occurred.
In December 2016, 143 of these workers were dismissed by Securitas, which is a multinational company contracted to provide security at the University. This was in the wake of lengthy disciplinary proceedings and an unsuccessful attempt by Securitas at the Labour Court to interdict workers from entering UWC’s premises.
In fact, Securitas immediately suspended the workers following the dismissal of the company’s application by the Court. They instituted charges against the workers in December. The charges that were levelled against the workers were:
·Assault / robbery of a supervisor
·Holding the senior management hostage at the Student Centre.
·Absenteeism from 17 October to 21 November 2016
The company charged 143 workers, including those who were on annual and maternity leave. They were all found “guilty” and dismissed. During this period the UWC management completely refused to intervene to avoid any drastic action against the workers. The General Industrial Workers Union of South Africa (GIWUSA), the SRC President and FeesMustFall (FMF) activists tried to arrange an urgent meeting with UWC and Securitas management to ensure that workers would not be victimised and dismissed for struggling for insourcing. Both management teams were not willing to meet.
Following the dismissal, which was confirmed on the 13th January 2017, student leaders through SRC and FMF engaged with UWC management to try and get them to do something about the dismissed workers. UWC responded that it would only mediate if the Securitas management commits itself to the mediation processes.
After the dismissal, workers took a stance that they were not going to appeal internally at the company against their dismissal. The company, however, has contacted certain individual workers encouraging them to appeal. As result, there is a group of about 20 workers that the company has succeeded in convincing to appeal. We are told their appeal was successful and they are back at work.
It is apparent that Securitas is trying to divide workers by encouraging a few to appeal to try to break the spirit of #OMF. This kind of action was definitely inspired by the past action of G4S; who dismissed approximately 150 employees at Stellenbosch University in November 2015. It is worth noting that both G4S and Securitas are giant international exploiters in the private security sector, and they are bad employers. This statement is backed up their actions being the only companies to dismiss huge number of employees in the struggle against outsourcing.
It is not surprising to find the kind of arrogance displayed by Securitas, the arrogance of a master losing power over its slaves. It is further not surprising that UWC management has been reluctant to intervene because they are not willing to insource the workers any time soon.
Despite all the challenges brought about by the dismissal of these 143 workers, Securitas’s actions have given confidence to other companies, such Bidvest Prestige, also based at UWC to start targeting worker leaders seen to be the ring leaders of the #OMF. They have unfairly dismissed comrade Nozibele Lukuko for the alleged theft of student property whilst the real culprits have been identified by the student who was robbed. The company has dismissed her and no action has been taken against those culprits who were identified by the student. Other worker leaders have been threatened by Bidvest management saying that they will follow comrade Nozie into the unemployment statistics.
However, workers remain resolute and determined to struggle until the end of outsourcing at UWC and beyond. GIWUSA has referred the Securitas dismissal case to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and the case is scheduled for Conciliation on the 7th March 2017, the University is cited as party to the Dispute.