One of the core demands of the #FeesMustFall student movement was to #EndOutsourcing. Today, that has been won at the University of Cape Town.

G4S security guards and NEHAWU members join the students on the picket line. Photo: UCT Rhodes Must Fall.

G4S security guards and NEHAWU members join the students on the picket line. Photo: UCT Rhodes Must Fall.

South African students took to the streets last week in the #FeesMustFall protest against rising student fees and the state of education. After a tense confrontation with the government at the Union Buildings in Pretoria last week, President Zuma conceded to the students’ main demand and announced a 0% increase in student fees.

The students had won the first round.

But although opposition to a fees increase was the issue the protests were organised around, it wasn’t the only one. Students also demand the decolonisation of universities, and for broader social issues.

Today, students marched on the treasury to demand free education.

The students made common cause with workers at the university, who have been protesting against outsourcing for years. NEHAWU, the health and education union, said in a statement:

“Privatisation puts money into business profits and cheats workers out of decent and quality jobs and wages within the University. Privatisation cheats the University Community out of services they need and deserve.

We end up funding profits, not services!

Profiteering leads to reduced access, service cuts, inequality, poverty wages and bad working conditions for workers.

The vast majority of cafeteria, bookshop, maintenance workers, cleaners, catering, security workers and landscapers are employed by contractors instead of the University.

A UCT worker at a student protest. Photo: UCT Rhodes Must Fall

A UCT worker at a student protest. Photo: UCT Rhodes Must Fall

These contracted service workers – not counted on the University’s official employment rolls and rarely mentioned in the public discourse – constitute the University’s invisible workforce.

  • These workers take home poverty wages at the end of each month;
  • These workers don’t enjoy proper benefits such as medical aid;
  • These workers or the dependants don’t enjoy proper study benefits;
  • These workers are unilaterally transferred from contract to contract;
  • These workers are summarily dismissed for minor transgressions;
  • These workers face discrimination each and every day;
  • These workers gets oppressed and exploited each and every day;”

The students made #EndOutsourcing one of their core demands.

A demonstration at UCT. Photo: UCT Rhodes Must Fall

A demonstration at UCT. Photo: UCT Rhodes Must Fall

Security at the University of Cape Town is provided by the notorious security company, G4S. UCT security guards demanding to be brought into direct employment, saying:

“G4S is very negligent when it comes to workers, they once allowed a worker who could not see properly to work in front of a road. He was hit by a car and is now in hospital. We are not sure what has become of him.

“We have lost many of our colleagues: G4S does not provide any support to go see their family and provide condolences. Only a memo is only put out and the worker is quickly replaced – this process is cold an mechanical, as if we are not humans with lives, but tools. British security firm G4S only cares about us in as far as it means making money – they promised us many things when they came here, and have followed through with nothing.”

Today, that demand was won.

The University of Cape Town issued a statement saying that it would commit to employing workers directly:

“We are aware that insourcing will incur significant costs. The recent wave of student and worker protests at UCT and nationally – for lower fees and for insourcing workers – has emboldened us to commit to finding the money somehow. Across the institution there now appears to be widespread support for moving away from outsourcing.”

Watch this documentary about the protests


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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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