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Staff at student accommodation in Braamfontein on strike

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South Point says it cannot meet workers’ demands and remain viable

Photo of protesters
Employees at South Point student accommodation in Braamfontein have been on a protected strike since Monday last week after wage negotiations deadlocked. Photo: Zoë Postman
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Employees at South Point student accommodation in Braamfontein have been on a protected strike since Monday last week after wage negotiations deadlocked.

South Point provides student accommodation and offices in five provinces across the country.

The employees, who work mostly in security and maintenance, are represented by the South African Industrial Commercial and Allied Workers Union (SAICWU). They are demanding an R8,500 minimum wage, R1,500 housing allowance, a provident fund, industrial medical aid, one day paid leave for medical checkups, and a long term demand to end outsourcing at South Point.

But South Point says it cannot meet the union’s demands as this will “undermine the company’s long term sustainability”.

President of SAICWU Simon Munyai said negotiations at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) have been ongoing for about three months, but remained unresolved.

“We are here today because the employer [South Point] has refused to meet our demands which are very reasonable … We have based our demands on the profits of the company,” said Munyai.

He said South Point was getting millions of rands from government funding, student bursaries and tenants. “But when we look at the workers, it doesn’t look like they are working for a company that is making millions of rands,” said Munyai.

A statement released by South Point on 15 September said the union failed to motivate for its demands and had not come up with a counter-offer to date.

According to South Point, the lowest earning employees would earn about R16,000 per month if all the union’s demands were met, which it said was “clearly unviable and not sustainable”.

William Molepo started working at South Point as an electrician in 2004. He said he is currently earning R5,400 per month but most of his salary goes towards transport from Kempton Park to Braamfontein.

“I am going on retirement soon and we don’t even have a provident fund here, so when I retire I will have nothing … I have to find other ways to make money because my fridge is always empty,” said Molepo.

Chief Executive Officer of South Point Ndumiso Davidson told GroundUp the company had agreed to implement a provident fund. It will start in June 2019. The company has also agreed to one day paid leave for medical checkups, and to long service financial awards, although the awards will not be retrospective.

Davidson said all employees are earning market-related salaries based on their job specifications, qualifications, experience and individual performance.

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