#EndOutsourcing: “I’m working in a university, but I can’t even afford to enrol my child there”

On Wednesday morning, students and outsourced workers from the University of Cape Town (UCT) picketed outside the Wynberg Magistrates Court in solidarity with #FeesMustFall students and workers arrested last week Tuesday. While they protested, UCT announced that it had agreed to “the principle of insourcing at UCT”. Workers told RA’EESA PATHER why insourcing means so much to them.

Cathy SepahelaCathy Sepahela, 51, cleaner from Metro Cleaning Services, Gugulethu
I am working for Metro Cleaning Services since 1999. Outsourcing affected my life very bad. I was working at UCT from 1990, and I was permanent in 1992. When you are permanent, you have plans. When we were outsourced, everything had changed. We had no benefits, no nothing. My life is miserable. My aim was I wanted to study because I was working at UCT. But now, everything was taken away from me. I’m just an ordinary person who gets paid once a month, then money’s finished, then you must wait for another month. I earn R4,000 per month. My dream was to be a social worker. In our community, we see a lot of things happening. As a mum, I involve myself in helping kids. We are single parents and we see what’s happening. When I started involving myself, I saw it was a challenge and I wanted to make it better by going for further studies. I am very happy that university has agreed to insourcing, it is the most wonderful news.

Lindelana TyhilanaLindelana Tyhilana, 37, security guard from G4S, Philippi
We cannot feed our families with the money we get from outsourcing. Sometimes, it’s even difficult to take our children to doctors when they are sick, because the money is not enough. We need to end the outsourcing, because a lot of the money is not coming to us as workers, it’s just going to the companies, not us. At the end of the day, we as the security workers, we are the ones who are suffering on the road. Sometimes the workers are getting sick, because when it’s winter you’re forced to stand outside. At the end of the month, we go home with R5,000. I’m fighting for my children to go to university, it is why we want insourcing. I, as a parent, didn’t have that opportunity, but if I get the chance to be insourced, that would be a big opportunity for my child.

Zelda MohamedZelda Mohamed, 50, cleaner from Metro Cleaning Services, Heideveld
We get paid too little. Every Christmas we have to make a loan to buy meat. We get R3,700, but it’s R3,500 after deductions. The deductions go to the provident fund and the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF). There’s no benefits, that’s why we want this outsourcing to go down, and they must insource us. For my age, I can’t get another job. Nobody is going to take me on, because I’m already 50 years old. We say thank you for the students for this to happen.

Xolisa KulaXolisa Kula, 39, security guard from G4S, Khayelitsha
We want to get the benefits that other people are getting from UCT, and our children must get 75% discount to study at UCT. We don’t have medical or pension funds at G4S, but UCT staff have these benefits. We also want a housing allowance. With outsourcing, it’s like you’re not even working: I’ve been working for 10 years, but when I went to check how much I have in my provident fund, I found out I only have R55,000. That’s one month salary for other people, but for me it’s for 10 years. I try my best to work overtime to keep my two children going to school, to be able to afford fees and transport. The only way to survive is to work overtime. It means that we work on the days we are meant to get off, it means we don’t get time for our own families. It’s been years that UCT has said the same thing. Every year they say they will look into insourcing, but I’ve been here for 10 years as an outsourced worker.

Nonkosinathi SilandelaNonkosinathi Silandela, 35, security guard from G4S, Khayelitsha
Most of the time, people are getting sick in the conditions we are working in at UCT. We are working outside, and we don’t have medical aid. I was sick in August, and I was in hospital for five days, and I must pay for myself. The doctor told me I had pneumonia. I’m happy now, because we are putting pressure on UCT to end that outsourcing. I’m not happy with the G4S company, but I’m working for G4S, I can’t do anything about that.

Bertram WagenstroonBertram Wagenstroon, 36, security guard from G4S, Belhar
They’re paying people very little, but they are the private sector. They can do much better that what they are. Outsourcing must go, because these people are profiting and we’re the ones working for them to get rich. I’m working in a university, but I can’t even afford to enrol my child there. But I’m there, I got a space there, so why can’t I be there for my children to get in? We have no medical aid, and even if we get into hospital, these people will never come to see me. When I die, they won’t even come to my funeral. I’ve got nothing to show for the work I’ve done.

– Voxes have been edited for brevity and clarity.
– Images by Ra’eesa Pather