SUPPORT staff at NMMU yesterday downed tools, saying they would not work until issues around outsourcing and transformation were resolved.
The staff, accompanied by a handful of students, said they would report to work but would occupy the grassy knoll in front of the university’s main building until the council met their demands.
The group are demanding that NMMU stop outsourcing support staff and address issues of ill-treatment, victimisation and low pay.
The staff joined a peaceful protest by students, which started on Sunday, after the student movement #nmmushutdown called for unity in addressing, among others, issues of outsourcing and transformation sparked by the
#FeesMustFall movement. Speaking on behalf of the student group, Lufefe Mkutu said Sunday night’s vigil and yesterday’s early morning occupation of the main building at NMMU south campus was in response to a mass meeting on Friday where support staff voiced their discontent with the outcome of demands made following the October 21 protests and subsequent mass meeting held on October 26.
Mkutu said the students had slept at the university and occupied the main building to show council they needed to show “urgency to meet our demands”.
“Council must commit [to] when they can sit. If this is out of our timeframe, then we will shut down the university. If it is reasonable, we will come back,” he said.
NMMU council member Richard Piyose said he had received an e-mail from NMMU vice-chancellor Professor Derrick Swartz and council chairman Judge Ronnie Pillay asking him to meet the students and staff yesterday.
Piyose, accompanied by fellow council member Zola Tshefu, told them they had called a meeting of the executive committee on Saturday.
Tshefu told the crowd gathered in the parking area outside the main building that NMMU’s council was fully committed to looking at the demands.
Mkutu, on behalf of the student body, said he appreciated that members of council had come to meet them yesterday but was disappointed to see only two members.
“We also appreciate the presence of Prof [Derrick Swartz] for his support and show of unity.”
Pillay sent out a statement yesterday calling for an urgent council meeting on Saturday “to examine recommendations from university management in regards to the student and worker representations to in-source certain services to the university”.