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Recent Articles about Southern Africa Workplace struggles

South Africa: New Amendments to the LRA – Their Meaning and Implicatio... Sep 15 14 by David Cartwright, Komnas Poriazis

South Africa: Justice for UJ Cleaners Aug 08 14 by Persistent Solidarity Forum

Revolutionary Trade Unionism: The Road to Workers’ Freedom Mar 24 14 by Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front

South Africa: victory for student hunger strike against staff sackings

category southern africa | workplace struggles | non-anarchist press author Sunday June 03, 2012 22:22author by Micah Roshan Reddy - Wits Workers Solidarity Committee Report this post to the editors

Micah Roshan Reddy reports from Wits University, South Africa, where a hunger strike by students against a proposed abusive sacking of 17 catering staff became an international campaign and secured a remarkable victory.

This year has seen some spectacular mass student protests, most notably in Chile and Montreal, but a less headline-grabbing action took place in recent days at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.

During the night of Sunday, May 20th, a group of thirty-two Wits students prepared to occupy the University’s main administrative building and embark on an ‘indefinite hunger strike’ to protest the unfair dismissal of seventeen catering workers. Royal Mnandi, an outsourced company contracted by the University, fired the workers in April for what it claims was “gross insubordination” after they refused to be redeployed to another workstation.

Workers were aggrieved at not having been adequately consulted about a move that would have incurred increased transport costs for them. The incident led to days of concerted protest action in support of the sacked workers, which included a mass rally and a highly successful boycott of Royal Mnandi involving over two-thousand students. The hunger strike came as the culmination of this campaign.

Promising though the initial support for the workers was, as with any hunger strike this was a boldly ambitious undertaking; the potential for defeat having been highlighted by events at California State University just weeks before the Wits students began their fast.

At CSU, a week-long hunger strike by a dozen students was aimed at getting a five-year moratorium placed on soaring tuition fees, reducing executives’ excessive benefits and bloated salaries (which have continued to rise despite budgetary cuts and fee hikes), and opening up more ‘free speech areas’ on CSU campuses. As the week ground on management remained obstinate and the willpower of some activists started to wane. By the time the strike ended management had barely budged from its initial stance, conceding only to negotiate on the issue of ‘free speech areas’ where political canvassing is allowed.

At the outset of the Wits hunger strike it seemed as though things could quite easily end in the same way as at CSU, and it wasn’t clear wether or not Wits management would remain as aloof and uncompromising as it had in the past.

Predictably, a management communiqué issued on 22nd May cited contractual stipulations and legal obstacles as the reason for the university’s inability to get involved in matters that pertained to outsourced service providers and that were thus “outside the sphere of the University’s operations”.

Yet again, Wits management was attempting to abdicate its moral responsibility to those who ensure the smooth functioning and general wellbeing of the university, but who are not under its employ and to whom management is thus not legally accountable.

A number of Wits academics, including Professor Lucien van der Walt of the Department of Sociology, have drawn attention to the effects of outsourcing and have attempted to place it in a national and global context. The protest at Wits represents a pip in a constellation of protests taking place at universities the world over, but a common systemic thread – cuts in university subsidies and the commodification of education – runs through them.

With a government macro-economic policy that stresses fiscal austerity and a heightened role for the private sector in tertiary education, it’s hardly surprising that Wits took the path that it did in the early 2000s, when management eagerly pushed through a major restructuring plan. A key component of that plan was the outsourcing of support services, and the rationale for that was the need to cut costs.

The effect was to transform the workforce into a cheaper, more exploitable, more ‘flexible’ one. Hundreds of workers lost their jobs, others lost benefits, had their wages slashed and found themselves in far more precarious positions of employment than before. Meanwhile, unions on campus were dealt a serious blow by the casualisation of work.

The Wits Workers Solidarity Committee – an alliance of workers, students and staff that coordinated the hunger strike – has gone some way towards filling the void left by the waning strength of unions on campus. In recent months the Committee has achieved incremental gains, helping workers claw back what they lost. It has put pressure on management and outsourced companies to improve working conditions, raised awareness about worker issues, highlighted cases of racial abuse and other transgressions against workers, and, crucially, helped instil a renewed confidence in workers and progressives on campus.

The hunger strike is the latest victory for workers – a real and symbolic one, small but nonetheless important. After management’s communiqué of 22nd May was rejected the strike continued, with support coming from an eclectic ideological mix of people – from anarchists to left-leaning liberals and radical members of the youth wings of the governing ANC-led alliance. By this time the foyer of the administrative building had become a vibrant hub of protest strewn with blankets, mattresses and placards.

As the week drew to a close, management backed down and agreed to intervene by holding negotiations with Royal Mnandi and student and worker representatives. It remains to be seen what will transpire at the negotiating table and whether or not the dismissed workers will be reinstated. But for now the discernable change in management’s attitude marks a potentially significant precedent.

Wits activists have shown that management cannot get away with shrugging off its responsibility to students and those who work on campus, even if their paycheques don’t come from the University anymore.

Related Link: http://ceasefiremagazine.co.uk/south-africa-victory-hun...ings/

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Issue #3 of the Newsletter of the Tokologo African Anarchist Collective

Front page

Elementos da Conjuntura Eleitoral 2014

The experiment of West Kurdistan (Syrian Kurdistan) has proved that people can make changes

[Chile] EL FTEM promueve una serie de “jornadas de debate sindical”

Ukraine: Interview with a Donetsk anarchist

The present confrontation between the Zionist settler colonialist project in Palestine and the indigenous working people

Prisões e mais criminalização marcam o final da Copa do Mundo no Brasil

An Anarchist Response to a Trotskyist Attack: Review of “An Introduction to Marxism and Anarchism” by Alan Woods (2011)

هەڵوێستی سەربەخۆی جەماوەر لە نێوان داعش و &

Contra a Copa e a Repressão: Somente a Luta e Organização!

Nota Pública de soldariedade e denúncia

Üzüntümüz Öfkemizin Tohumudur

Uruguay, ante la represión y el abuso policial

To vote or not to vote: Should it be a question?

Mayday: Building A New Workers Movement

Anarchist and international solidarity against Russian State repression

Argentina: Atentado y Amenazas contra militantes sociales de la FOB en Rosario, Santa Fe

Réponses anarchistes à la crise écologique

50 оттенков коричневого

A verdadeira face da violência!

The Battle for Burgos

Face à l’antisémitisme, pour l’autodéfense

Reflexiones en torno a los libertarios en Chile y la participación electoral

Mandela, the ANC and the 1994 Breakthrough: Anarchist / syndicalist reflections

Melissa Sepúlveda "Uno de los desafíos más importantes es mostrarnos como una alternativa real"

Southern Africa | Workplace struggles | en

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textStatement by the Anti-Government-in-Exile of Wits University 16:49 Thu 08 Sep by Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, James Pendlebury, Komnas Poriazis 0 comments

Beginning on Sunday 28 August, Wits students have been littering parts of campus in solidarity with the cleaners’ strike. Cleaners throughout South Africa are demanding a living wage of R4 200 per month: this compares with less than R2 000 paid to cleaners at Wits, who are employed by outsourcing companies such as Supercare. The strike has been undermined, at Wits and elsewhere, by the presence of scab labour; Wits management and the outsourcing companies are striving for “business as usual”. This undermines the entire purpose of the strike, which is to compel exploiter-managers to meet workers’ demands by withdrawing their labour, by preventing the job from getting done – by making sure the campus is not clean.

textSupport S. African public sector strike 19:56 Wed 20 Jun by Melbourne Anarchist Commounist Group 0 comments

A Melbourne Anarchist Commounist Group Statement in support of South African public sector strike

textOAE – Greece supports the strikers in S.Africa 20:54 Wed 13 Jun by OAE-Greece 0 comments

The Federation of Anarchists of Greece (OAE) is calling for a further action in terms of unity and organisation.

textZACF Statement of Support for Public Sector Strike 18:53 Wed 13 Jun by Jonathan 7 comments

The Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation (southern Africa) supports the public sector strikers, not just in their demand for a wage increase of 12%, which has now been reduced to 10%, but also in their struggle to improve the standard of all public sector services.

textAnti-Privatisation Forum May Day Rally 19:29 Tue 01 May by Dale McKinley 0 comments

The APF will be hosting a May Day Workers Rally in the community of Residensia (Sebokeng – Vaal Triangle) at Tshepo Themba School at 10h00 tomorrow in support of all the working class struggles in the country.

textConditions for Workers in South Africa 17:44 Tue 31 May by Phillip Nyalungu 0 comments

t is common amongst bosses to prefer workers coming from countries that are torn by civil wars or famine. This is because they do away with any responsibilities to cover for workers' health if exposed to health risk scenarios while working. Because these people are not citizens, the country's labour laws do not count for them. That way the bosses don't have to worry about precautionary equipment and measures expected by governmental labour standards

imageAlternative Needed to Nationalisation and Privatisation Feb 28 by Tina Sizovuka and Lucien van der Walt 1 comments

Privatisation – the transfer of functions and industry to the private sector – is widely and correctly rejected on the left and in the working class. Privatisation leads only to higher prices, less and worse jobs, and worse services. Given this, some view nationalisation – the transfer of economic resources (e.g. mines, banks, and factories) to state ownership and control – as a rallying cry for a socialist alternative. This article argues that nationalisation has never removed capitalism, nor led to socialism, and it certainly does not have a demonstrable record of consistently improving wages, jobs, rights and safety. This article appeals to progressive working class forces to look instead to another way:collectivisation from below, where industry is placed under direct workers’ self-management, subject to worker-community participatory democratic planning and control to meet human needs and end oppression, in a universal human community.

imageReaping what you sow: reflections on the Western Cape farm workers strike Feb 09 by Shawn Hattingh 0 comments

The series of strikes and protests that recently took place in and around farms in South Africa’s Western Cape Province was fuelled by the deep-seated anger and frustration that workers feel. On a daily basis, farm workers face not only appalling wages, bad living conditions and precarious work, but also widespread racism, intimidation and humiliation. The extent of the oppressive conditions run deep and it is not uncommon for workers to even be beaten by farm-owners and managers for perceived ‘transgressions’. Indeed, life for workers in the rural areas has always been harsh, but over the last two decades it has in many ways gotten even worse and poverty has in many cases grown.

imageWhat the Marikana Massacre tells us Sep 04 by Shawn Hattingh 0 comments

While any human being with any sense of justice should be appalled by what happened at Marikana it would, however, be a mistake to view it as an isolated incident that emerged out of the blue.

imageCleaning out super-exploitation Sep 14 by James Pendlebury 0 comments

Cleaning workers throughout South Africa have been on strike since Monday 8 August. They are demanding a living wage of R4 200 per month, as well as a 13th cheque and shorter hours.

imageBuild a Better Workers’ Movement: learning from South Africa’s 2010 mass strike Jul 11 by Lucien van der Walt and Ian Bekker 0 comments

The biggest single strike since the 1994 parliamentary transition in South Africa showed the unions’ power. It won some wage gains, but it threw away some precious opportunities. We need to celebrate the strike, while learning some lessons: • the need for more union democracy
• the need to use strikes to link workers and communities
• the need for working class autonomy
• the need to act outside and against the state
• the need to review our positions: against the Tripartite Alliance, for anarcho-syndicalism

more >>

textStatement by the Anti-Government-in-Exile of Wits University Sep 08 Anti-Government-in-Exile of Wits University 0 comments

Beginning on Sunday 28 August, Wits students have been littering parts of campus in solidarity with the cleaners’ strike. Cleaners throughout South Africa are demanding a living wage of R4 200 per month: this compares with less than R2 000 paid to cleaners at Wits, who are employed by outsourcing companies such as Supercare. The strike has been undermined, at Wits and elsewhere, by the presence of scab labour; Wits management and the outsourcing companies are striving for “business as usual”. This undermines the entire purpose of the strike, which is to compel exploiter-managers to meet workers’ demands by withdrawing their labour, by preventing the job from getting done – by making sure the campus is not clean.

textSupport S. African public sector strike Jun 20 0 comments

A Melbourne Anarchist Commounist Group Statement in support of South African public sector strike

textOAE – Greece supports the strikers in S.Africa Jun 13 Anarkismo 0 comments

The Federation of Anarchists of Greece (OAE) is calling for a further action in terms of unity and organisation.

textZACF Statement of Support for Public Sector Strike Jun 13 Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation 7 comments

The Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation (southern Africa) supports the public sector strikers, not just in their demand for a wage increase of 12%, which has now been reduced to 10%, but also in their struggle to improve the standard of all public sector services.

textAnti-Privatisation Forum May Day Rally May 01 Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF) 0 comments

The APF will be hosting a May Day Workers Rally in the community of Residensia (Sebokeng – Vaal Triangle) at Tshepo Themba School at 10h00 tomorrow in support of all the working class struggles in the country.

more >>
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