Update on catering staff protest

22 May 2017 | Dr Max Price
Campus announcement
22 May 2017

Dear students and colleagues

As many of you know, the University of Cape Town has experienced unlawful disruptions to our residence catering services over the past few days. The disruptions have been caused by some staff in the kitchens and, more recently, by some students who have entered and disrupted kitchens. The disruptions have taken place against the backdrop of ongoing engagement with staff representatives about future trade union recognition and various grievances about working conditions following insourcing. Some staff have suggested that UCT conditions of service are less favourable than those of their outsourced catering contractor. They have alleged that they are not being paid appropriately for weekend work. This perception may have arisen because while they were outsourced, staff were paid daily wages with weekend work paid at higher daily rates. In the process of insourcing, all staff were brought onto UCT’s standard system of monthly wages. Shift workers, whose shifts include night work and weekends, are paid a monthly wage that incorporates additional rates for weekends and shift allowances, although this is not made explicit on the payslip because it is averaged over all shifts.

The fact is that employees in catering services work fewer hours per month for substantially higher salaries than they had while outsourced. They are paid an all-in monthly package that covers all shifts and weekend work, which is between 59% and 96% more (in pay classes 2 - 5) than before they were insourced.

There are other grievances about working conditions, provident funds and shift structures, among others. The executive have already resolved many of the issues in the current dispute with catering workers, following numerous meetings over several months. We will continue to engage with staff representatives in an attempt to address outstanding concerns, but these discussions must be held within legal and institutional processes. Employees have the right to approach the Council for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) if they feel that there is not enough progress and ultimately to exercise their right to strike once the CCMA has issued a certificate indicating that other avenues have been exhausted. But walking off the job, disrupting the workplace, and unpredictable work stoppages are not in line with labour law procedures and constitute unprotected strike action, which will incur only negative consequences for employees – including loss of earnings and possible disciplinary action.

UCT takes these unlawful disruptions very seriously, and is working hard to resolve them as soon as possible with minimum disruption to residence students. Staff and students who conduct themselves unlawfully, or are in breach of UCT rules, face possible sanction, and we urge them to conduct themselves lawfully and within the boundaries of acceptable conduct.

UCT seeks to be an employer of choice for staff members in all pay grades and departments. The purpose of insourcing was to improve both conditions of employment and benefit packages for staff in the lower pay classes. We remain committed to doing this. We will make further announcements as the situation evolves.


Dr Max Price

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