Code of conduct

25 July 2005
Code of conduct

The following letter comes from Vice-Chancellor Professor Njabulo Ndebele and concerns feedback on a new and progressive code of conduct that will guide and improve the working conditions and wages of service providers contracted by the university

Up until the early 1990s UCT employed security, cleaning, catering and similar staff directly. The workers were on the UCT payroll, and were entitled to a range of associated benefits. The first outsourcing occurred in the early 1990s, and involved some sections of the catering staff. Work of further staff was outsourced over the ensuing years. In undertaking the first outsourcing, UCT provided some safeguards to the workers concerned. Some of the workers were employed by the new contractors while others took voluntary severance packages.

Since outsourcing first began, there have been expressions of concern from the workers as well as from university staff and students, about employment conditions affecting outsourced workers. Bodies such as the Institutional Forum and Transformation Alliance have also asked for action in this regard. This is a clear indication of the social consciousness and calibre of our staff and students.

I have taken significant personal interest in the process that led up to the formulation of the code of conduct, and I believe that its implementation serves as an opportunity for change and transformation at UCT. The recommendation of this code of conduct follows intense discussions within the university community and comes at a time when many of the five-year contracts with third-party suppliers are due for renewal. I am positive that the outcome of these decisions and the subsequent code of conduct will improve working conditions for outsourced workers on our campus.

There are currently nine companies providing outsourced services, which employ workers who spend all of their time doing UCT-related work; and /or are paid through the Council-controlled budgets. These services are cleaning, security, maintenance of grounds, sports grounds, gardens, document services and transport. Many of the contracts with these companies will be coming to an end over the next few months and will be advertised for re-tendering. The new tenders will make provision for UCT's code of conduct and companies tendering will be required to adhere to the terms of the code if they are to obtain or retain contracts with UCT.

The code of conduct addresses the following issues:

  1. Freedom of association and collective bargaining. This includes the right of workers to join or form trade unions and to bargain collectively.
  2. Working conditions. This includes health and safety considerations, staff development and training.
  3. Minimum wages. The code of conduct proposes the implementation of wages that are at least equal to the Supplemented Living Level (SLL) for the Western Cape. The SLL is independently determined by the Bureau of Market Research (BMR) of the University of South Africa. The proposed wages will mean that the lowest paid among the contracted workers will earn a salary, which should be able to cover basic needs. One of the advantages of the SLL is that the BMR produces regular updates. This means that Council will not need to debate the appropriate level each year. Instead, it will be set by an independent, outside academic body. The proposed minimum wage levels will be phased in between 2006 and 2008 to allow for effective financial planning .
  4. Contracted companies will be required to pay at least 80% of the SLL in 2006, 90% in 2007, and the full SLL in 2008. Other conditions include regulating working hours, night allowances and leave conditions.

    During October 2004, the University Council established an ad hoc committee to advise on a code of conduct for outsourced workers. The committee proposed a short and simple code to make it easier for everyone to know what his or her rights and responsibilities are. The code also strongly promotes self-regulation and dialogue between the employers and employees and their representatives.

    All current contractors, including those who have entered into contracts recently, were informed during 2004 that UCT was in the process of drawing up a code, which would affect the terms and conditions of their contracts.

    I am pleased with the outcome of this process and would like to thank those members of the university community who took a moral and ethical stand by participating in the discussions and surveys that preceded the formulation of the proposed code of conduct.

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