Last week, in view of our concerns about the living and learning conditions of our students in residences and in order to provide the required academic and administrative support to the examinations, we called for the return of essential services to campus. The workers from the cleaning companies returned on Tuesday and they were joined on Wednesday by the security workers from the company Securitas who have a labour dispute with their employer. Both groups of workers refused to work until the issues that the security staff have with their employer, Securitas, were resolved. Essentially the company, Securitas, claims that workers were involved in an unprotected strike while workers insist they were heeding the call for a shutdown. Securitas has since taken the matter through the formal labour processes and it is our understanding that the matter has been referred to the CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration).
There are claims being made that the University management is in collusion with Securitas. This is certainly not true. The only relationship that the University has with Securitas is that of a service provider to the University.
The University continued to pay for a security service during this period and Securitas deployed replacement security to stand in for the staff that did not report for work. An additional demand is that the University should intervene and instruct Securitas to pay these workers. The University can unfortunately not do that because it would in effect mean that the University is stepping into the shoes of the employer. We have requested Securitas to resolve their labour issues as a matter of urgency and to ensure that their labour dispute do not continue to impact on the University, its staff, students and property. Also given that almost no cleaning services were provided this week we have asked the cleaning companies to assess the situation on Monday and inform us of their capacity to ensure the provision of such services.
Regrettably, we had three further incidents of fires that are believed to have been deliberately started at the University at mid-day today. One fire was started behind the University stadium, and two more in the UWC Cape Flats Nature Reserve. As at 18h00 this evening fire fighters were still trying to bring one of the fires in the reserve under control and we are therefore not yet in a position to assess the impact of the fires on the fauna and flora of the reserve. The Nature Reserve is listed as a core botanical site on the Cape Flats and is absolutely crucial to teaching and learning as well as research, especially in the natural sciences. Cases of suspected arson have been opened with the police.
Despite the very trying circumstances our staff and students are showing remarkable resilience. Students continue to prepare and report for exams despite the very difficult circumstances in which they have to work. Our staff continues to work off-site in ensuring that the essential operations of the University continues despite lack of access to critical resources. In addition, some staff, are providing services on campus despite constant threats. We commend staff and students on their resilience and perseverance and we ask those staff and students that do go to campus to exercise caution and be extra vigilant.
The conditions on campus and in the student residences are currently not optimal. Students and staff have expressed serious concerns about lack of access to services and the uninhabitable conditions under which residence students currently live. Senate has, at its meeting today, also expressed a strong sentiment that the campus should return to normality. It has become urgent that we should restore the provision of critical and essential services to provide a conducive and supportive study environment for all students.
In this context critical and essential services among others include:
a) Food services
b) Health services (including counselling)
c) Residential services
d) Cleaning services
e) Financial aid
f) Maintenance services
g) Student Administration
h) Information and Communication Services (including the Library where ICS and academic related services are located).
We will also be giving special consideration for differently-abled students, postgraduate studies and research, as these are influenced by external commitments.
We have, therefore, decided that as from Monday, 14 November 2016, we will start a process to restore critical and essential services.
The fact that these are critical and essential services should, however, not be interpreted as an instruction for individual staff of these services to return to campus. Staff who feel in any way unsafe, uncomfortable or threatened are advised to liaise with their line managers. The same applies to all other staff wishing to return to campus.
Further consultations with the student leadership on the priorities expressed in the memorandum of demands are ongoing and we hope that these processes will assist to reach positive outcomes in the best interests of all students and the entire campus community.