Outsourcing and Slave Wages Must Go

The Lesson from Kovsie

Student leader Trevor Shaku writes about the contentious issue of outsourcing and calls for an end to slave wages.

The sectoral determination for the cleaning sector sets the minimum hourly rate at R15.4699 in cities like Mangaung. The outsourced workers at the University of the Free State are (no longer soon) subjected to the wages premised on this sectoral determination.

For workers working seven hours of the weekdays, this translates into a monthly income between R2 274 and R2 382. For workers working eight hours of the weekdays, their monthly income is between R2 599 and R2 722.
This is meagre. This is a slave wage.

Cost of living

Meanwhile the consumer prices have been increasing. Stats SA reported 4.6 percent increase year-on-year in September 2015 of the consumer price. This means the living conditions of people have become more and more expensive.

Local taxis within the vicinity of Mangaung have increased from R9 to R10. Since these workers board the taxi twice in order to reach the work place (the institution), therefore they spend R40 on transport daily. This is R800 monthly. A monthly bus tag to and fro Botshabelo and Thabanchu cost R600 to R800 per month. This means around 35.2 percent of the wages of the workers working 7 hours and 29.4 percent of the wage of the workers working seven hours is lost to transport.

Speaking to the workers about their lunch costs; they spend R35 on lunch daily. This is just a conservative figure, because for those workers who begin their duty at 7am they buy breakfast too. This translates into R880 monthly total on lunch.

Photos: Lihlumelo Toyana and Anne Munene

Photos: Lihlumelo Toyana and Anne Munene

The R880 monthly expenditure on lunch at the workplace means around 38.7 percent of workers’ wages working 7 hours and 32.3 percent of the wage of the workers working seven hours is lost to lunch at work.

Expenditure on transport and lunch added together shows that the workers working 8 hours per day spend 61.7 percent of their current wages for work purposes. For those workers working 7 hours, 73.9 percent is spent. On top of this, these workers have to take care of their children, contribute to their siblings’ social wellbeing and generally take care of themselves.

This is the expression of the observation Karl Marx made over 140 years ago, that workers are remunerated “just enough for him to exist not as a human being but as a worker”. The major part of expenditure goes to fund the worker to get to work and be productive, not the social life of the workers.

Photos: Lihlumelo Toyana and Anne Munene

Photos: Lihlumelo Toyana and Anne Munene

Way forward for workers

UFS outsourced workers made a breakthrough on two major issues that saw them marching on Tuesday; struggle for a decent wage and abolishment of outsourcing. Outsourcing is going to be phased out, and as a result a Joint Working Group has been established to reach consensus on how this is to happen.

A Minimum monthly wage of R5000 was won too. This minimum wage sets the hourly rate at R35 per hour. So much as this is not the end of it; workers in different institution must pressurize those institutions for a minimum hourly rate of R35.

The R35 hourly rate achieved at UFS shames the government’s sectoral determination. The next struggle of the students and workers must be directed at the government to demand the abolishment of labour brokers and outsourcing and for a R35 minimum hourly rate across gardening, cleaning, security and other sectors which continue to face wage slavery.

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