By BO Staff Writer
Yesterday, approximately 150 Wits workers and students closed all shops at the University cafeteria, The Matrix, in solidarity with four Sizzlers workers who were dismissed in September for eating food from the fast food shop.
The workers were dismissed for ridiculous offenses. One of the workers was dismissed for eating a spoon of curry while the leader of the protest action, Thandiswa, who was a cashier at the store, was dismissed for eating a quarter chicken.
Thandiswa says that there was never any written rules about eating food at the shop.
Thandiswa is part of the Insourcing Task Team (ITT) which was meant to negotiate for the insourcing of workers, salary top ups, and an end to worker exploitation at Wits. Instead, the ITT, which is chaired by EFF chairperson Adv Dali Mpofu, left The Matrix workers out of their negotiations with the university. This means the Matrix workers have not received the wage increases that the other Wits workers have received – a divide and rule strategy by the University.
In June, Black Opinion noted that, “Mpofu and others were tasked to come up with ways to implement the decision to end outsourcing. Sources say the workers have lost trust in Mpofu after the ITT failed to end outsourcing for all the workers. Almost 300 workers are excluded by Mpofu’s task team. On the 26th of May, the ITT announced its recommendations after eight months of deliberations. The recommendations of the ITT were not what workers had struggled for. Mpofu and his committee are accused of siding with the University against workers.”
Thandiswa, who is the elected representative of the workers, said the university has been trying to get rid of her for mobilising against the unjust working conditions at The Matrix specifically and the University generally.
While addressing the workers she said, “Free Education is about blackness. End Outsourcing is about blackness and the black condition. That’s why today I work in a shop even though I was bright at school. Black people are denied education and land.”
The workers met after handing over a memorandum to Dean of Students, Dr Puleng LenkaBula after a senior member of the executive council refused to avail himself to sign the memorandum of the workers. The workers decided that they give the university 24 hours to respond to their demands. The consensus reached was that workers would shut the Matrix down until their demands are met.
Today at 11am, the 2nd day of the shutdown, employers will be called to speak with the workers to discuss their grievances which also include the issue of pay deductions from workers’ wages when the university was shutdown.
While Dali Mpofu is celebrated as a person who “brought economic freedom” to Wits workers, as form Vuyani Pambo once said, some workers at Wits have been left to continue the fight to end outsourcing all on their own.