UWC starts year without a hitch

SOYISO MALITI

While student protests started at UCT this week, it was relatively quiet at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) in Bellville on Monday February 15.

Last year, protests and riots erupted on university campuses around the country after the #FeesMustFall movement was formed in response to rising fees and mounting student debt.

On Monday morning, when registration opened, the Northern News spotted a police Nyala at UWC, just metres away from the gutted residential services building that was torched in last year’s riots.

Meanwhile at CPUT, security guards in red shirts patrolled the campus. Several days earlier, on Friday February 5, more than 100 students and workers had gathered on the lawn in front of the student centre at UWC to press home issues they felt management had failed to concede to before campuses closed last year: free education, clearing student debt and ending outsourcing of workers. (“UWC students voice demands ahead of registration”, Northern News, February 11).

UWC spokesman Luthando Tyhalibongo said the university’s council had met late last year to consider the students’ grievances.

“UWC council accepts that the socio-economic conditions of outsourced staff are unacceptable and contribute to increased inequities. UWC council carefully considered the financial implications of insourcing and decided that, given the university’s financial position, the impact of insourcing together with other concessions, makes this, at this stage, an unaffordable option.”

However, Mr Tyhalibongo said, the council had agreed to some concessions:

* All outsourced workers (cleaning, security and grounds staff) will get a R2 000 monthly allowance, effective from December 1 2015.

* Outsourced staff will have access to the same study rebates as permanent staff for themselves and their children.

* The university will engage contracting companies about improving employment conditions for their staff.

* Council, in principle, supports insourcing and the university will look at its “long-term impact” as well as possible alternatives, such as “worker co-operatives”.