On the crisis at CPUT

 

A necessary background

Before discussing any aspect of the current situation at CPUT it should be remembered that it is the absence of radical economic transformation is at the root of the crisis facing the masses.

 

The economy is controlled by imperialism. Every year hundreds of billions of Rands worth of wealth is stolen by the mines and banks. This plunder is well documented in the Journal of Southern African Studies [Ashman, Fine, Newman: Amnesty International: Capital Flight from Southern Africa ]. The theft reached its peak in 2007 when 23% of GDP was stolen by Anglo American and other monopolies. This amounts to R600 bn just in one year. This theft is besides the actual profits of the monopolies which runs into over R1000 bn every year. Most of the profits are taken offshore. The ANC leaders turn a blind eye to this. Both ANC and SACP have investment companies that operate on the mines. All banks and mines have ANC and/or SACP leaders on their boards.  

Every single one of our needs, such a work for all at a decent wage, free education, free housing, free health-care for all, could easily be met if the plunder was stopped.

 

The mass unemployment, the early death of hundreds of thousands due to diseases of poverty could have been prevented. Yet the mining capitalists and the banks are not seen as criminals. These thieves and murderers are revered in society.

 

Since 2001 the government has been cutting tertiary education expenditure. The ‘increases’ have always been less than inflation, which amounts to cuts in real terms. This is what has led to a rise in outsourcing at universities. The essence has been dismissing workers, cutting their benefits and salaries. In effect the unpaid labour of the outsourced staff has been subsidizing the salaries of the upper echelons of the university apparatus.

 

The wages of outsourced workers have been kept low until the recent explosion in 2015 #feesmustfall. A student-worker alliance was always going to have its frailties, especially the student side of the alliance, due to the high turnover of students as well as the middle class tendencies within them. Nevertheless, the student-workers alliance was crucial in winning insourcing.

 

The problem is that merely insourcing without changes in the overall structure of education, brings with it tensions. There are limited funds and thus limits on how high workers wages can be raised. Unless the super-structure of Vice Chancellors getting millions along with the top structure of the universities, is challenged then tensions will remain.

 

The need for a political solution

Free, quality education, with insourced staff receiving equal pay for equal work, is possible. With the Fees Commission report about to be released, a political solution can be found. In Tanzania, the diamond minds have been nationalised. The full nationalization of the mines and banks here, is possible and should be taken. The theft by the mines and banks over the decades is reason enough. The mines need to compensate the masses.

 

Students are going to push the boundaries and so they should. Every injustice deserves to be challenged. Does suspending 4 student leaders help matters? Does militarizing campuses help? The Pro-Events security are not trained in negotiations and de-escalation of conflict. They have beaten students at UWC on their heads, with the students having to receive hospital treatment, yet these untrained security are deployed at CPUT. More than 100 rooms in residences were kept empty purely because students did not have the money. For 8 months the homeless students were expected to attend class on an equal footing with others. There was a special task team set up in 2016 called the RRTT (Rapid Response task team). How serious was the university about rapidly reaching agreement over wage and conditions of the workers? The permanent staff and workers received their increases 8 months late while the top management had received their increases months before. At a certain stage in the negotiations at RRTT it had been agreed that the basic wage for insourced workers would be R7500 per month. Then CPUT management collapsed the RRTT claiming that it was no longer working. The students and workers had to occupy the admin building before they could extract a promise to get their contracts by the end of August. When workers received their contracts the basic wage was R3500. Naturally workers and students are angry. Workers are only now getting group life cover. It would have cost the university only R14,81 per worker, yet they did not cover the workers from the time of insourcing. The University did not even deduct UIF until the end of August, completely illegal conduct. 4 insourced workers died between January and July. These workers families were left with nothing; they could not even claim the death benefits from the Department of Labour. The R14,81 insurance that the university was too selfish to pay, could have at least given the surviving families 3 years wages. For the University to claim they met their internal deadlines, is rather disingenuous.

 

All students and workers and even administrations should pressure government to take measures, not only for free education but that the allocations be increased so that the wages of the recently insourced workers can be rapidly raised to a living level.

 

Further, there needs to be good faith talks, with the university opening the books, so that workers contracts can be re-negotiated and not unilaterally imposed. The suspension of the student leaders should be lifted and the campuses demilitarised. If help is needed with mediation, there are credible facilitators such as the Cape Law society that are readily available. Nehawu and other unions should remember that they are there to defend workers interests, not to call on the very police that are now shooting 10 year olds in the mouth at a range of 2 m.

 

The situation is crying out for a genuine workers party that would mobilise the masses for their interests. Meanwhile Saftu and Cosatu and other fenderations should be challenged to mobilise for a socio-economic strike for free education. It is long overdue that the student-worker alliance of #feesmustfall, develops into a workers-student alliance. Workers to the lead, to end outsourcing and for free-quality education, from the cradle to the grave.

 

13.9.2017

WIVL

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Reference:

Journal of Southern African Studies [[http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03057070.2011.555155 ]

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