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‘Insourcing’ will hurt contractors

Sandile Zungu, one of President Jacob Zuma’s close allies, will be affected by the decision of several universities to provide support services in-house.

He is the nonexecutive chairperson of Supercare, which provided 417 workers to do cleaning services at the University of Cape Town. The company also provides workers for the University of KwaZulu-Natal. UCT paid the company more than R40-million in 2014.

Supercare’s cleaning contract at the University of the Witwatersrand expired in 2013.

Zungu, who is also the executive chairperson of Zungu Investments Company, has been described as being part of the president’s “kitchen cabinet”. Members of

this unofficial and extra-party group are said to play a key role in counselling Zuma, particularly about major appointments.

Supercare, which did not respond to several requests for comment, has a client base throughout South Africa, with about “4 000 contracts in the business and industry, healthcare and education sectors, and currently employs around 20 000 people”, according to its website.

A long wait
Outsourced workers at Wits fear it could take as long as two years before they become employees of the university. 

Wits announced last week that it would abolish outsourcing of support services and directly employ the currently contracted workers. But some companies apparently have contracts with the university that run until 2018.

The university’s vice-chancellor, Adam Habib, has said a commission will be set up to look into ways of introducing “insourcing” at the institution. It will also “determine the details of how ‘insourcing’ can be undertaken in a financially sustainable manner”, he said.

Service companies stand to lose millions of rands from universities in the aftermath of the #FeesMustFall protests, which hit Wits and UCT hardest.

Students and workers at several other universities are also demanding the abolishment of outsourcing.

Responding to a memorandum of demands this week, the deputy higher education and training minister, Mduduzi Manana, told UCT and Cape Peninsula University of Technology students that the department had appointed a task team that would “seriously scrutinise the matter of outsourcing in the higher education institutions”.

Unfair practice
The University of Johannesburg (UJ) has been struggling with anti-outsourcing protests since Monday. The demonstrations by cleaners and students at the main campus in Auckland Park were triggered by what workers described as an unfair labour practice.

The university outsources cleaning services to Elite, a private cleaning company, whose workers are up in arms after learning that the company has been sold and they are being transferred to another company.

The workers are furious because the transfer has taken place without their knowledge. It has left them in the dark about new terms of employment and their provident fund, among other things.

UJ vice-chancellor Ihron Rensburg, told students and staff in a communiqué that the institution “was the first to announce its intention to end all outsourcing arrangements. Since this announcement, we have

established a task team to develop a plan to enable us to insource service staff at the very earliest opportunity, and work has begun.”

At Wits, an outsourced landscaper, Mathews Bodiba, said he and his colleagues had mixed emotions about the university’s decision to employ people directly.

“Workers are happy about the university’s decision to ‘insource’ and are now only waiting for implementation. But we must inquire about companies whose contracts are going to end in 2017 or 2018. We’re worried they are going to wait for contracts to lapse. On our side, the company contract is ending next year November,” he said.

Gretel Hornischer, the director of Sibanye, a bus company contracted to transport UCT students and staff, said as far as she knew their contract would not be terminated before it expired next June.

“At the moment we have got a contract with the university that will be served until 30 June next year. As far as we know, our contract runs until June.

“We’re not concerned about anything because the contract would go out for tender then. The university has called us to a meeting [on Friday] to discuss the matter.”

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Bongani Nkosi
Bongani is an education reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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