Friday 6 November 2015

Protest Letter to University of Johannesburg over Attacks on Workers and Students


Ihron Lester Rensburg
University of Johannesburg
South Africa

Solidarity to UJ workers and Students
Protest Letter

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) writes to protest the use of police and security to attack protesting workers (cleaners, gardeners, maintenance, kitchen and other domestic staff) at your University.

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) is a group based in Nigeria that fights against fees and for a free, public-funded and democratically-managed education. We also promote and defend democratic rights of education workers and students. We are the Nigerian equivalent of the Socialist Youth Movement (SYM) which is playing crucial role in the struggles of students and workers in South Africa.

The workers’ protest at UJ is an outgrowth of the students #FeesMustFall protest a few weeks ago and it is to demand an end to outsourcing and improvement in pay and conditions. One of the most exciting features of the recent student protests – the October student uprising, that won an enormous success in forcing the ANC government to agree to a 0% fee increase in 2016 – was the outstretched hand of students to university workers. On many campuses workers joined the students in the protests. In reality a rebellion of both students and workers has played out over recent months.

Workers at UJ earn as little as R2, 900 ($210) per month. When outsourcing was introduced workers were deprived of many rights including the right for their children to study for free at the Universities the workers clean and maintain. 

We are surprised that whilst the University of Cape Town and the University of the Witwatersrand have now been forced to agree to end outsourcing, your University is not only bent on continuing with this neo-liberal and anti-poor agenda but you are also determined to discipline the workers for their audacity. This was why on Wednesday 4 November 2015, public order police were deployed to attack protesting workers. In the process, one workers leg was broken. Also on Thursday 5 November 2015, police were used against workers again. 

We are aware that your management obtained an interdict banning protests within 700 meters of the university and the right to claim the costs of the judgment from the workers. You also emulated the authoritarianism of the apartheid regime by banning demonstrations on campus thus forcing workers to protest outside locked gates in front of armed police. Your management also refused to deal with the workers committee elected by the workers to represent themselves and will only deal with the discredited trade union that did nothing about outsourcing for years.

The right to protest is an internationally recognised right. Your attacks on workers constitute an infringement on their democratic rights. We demand that you desist forthwith from attacking your workers and immediately meet all their demands. We demand:

·         An end to repression – for the right to protest
·    Lift the interdict
·    End outsourcing
·    Deal directly with the workers committee

In the weeks to come, the ERC shall campaign within the students’ movement and labour movement in Nigeria for solidarity actions to compel you to respect the rights of your workers and students.
Thank you,

Hassan Taiwo Soweto                                            Michael Ogundele                          
National Coordinator (07033697259)                 National Secretary                                  

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