A black Christmas for Unisa’s unpaid contract workers

A black Christmas for Unisa’s unpaid contract workers

It will be a black Christmas for at least 50 independent contractors from the University of South Africa (Unisa) after the institution failed to secure payment for services rendered.

Portia Cele

Agnes Mbhele, social worker and independent contractor for Unisa, says the large scale lack of payment by the university has affected supervisors, markers as well as facilitators across KwaZulu-Natal.

Mbhele says she and others are owed money dating back to 2015.

As a result they have failed to meet their financial obligations.

"The evidence I have for 2017, the marking I did for 2017, R14 433 was not paid, for 2018, R14 229 not paid," says Mbhele.

"We have been struggling issues especially from 2015 when they changed the payment system. Some would be paid a portion of what they are owned, others not paid at all. This has been going on and We've had video conferences an d meetings to resolve the issues, they would resolve for a few and others not resolve."

Earlier this year, Mbhele says the disgruntled downed tools.

"In 2019 all the supervisors, mentors, facilitators or trainers and other independent contractors in the social work department met and discussed this whole issue and we resolved not to do any work until we have been paid.

"We sent an email to the Dean at that time and Vice-chancellor and then he sent a delegation of an acting head of the social work department to Durban."

Agnes says that meeting didn't prove fruitful.

Sympathetic students mobilised and picketed across the province with the workers to put pressure on management.

"All we want to have is the payment. We love the job, it's all about the student and as you know the bulk of the students are black students so we did not want to compromise the work of the students and now this is coming in between," she adds.

Management at Unisa says its investigating claims that a number of its independent contractors have not been paid salaries dating back to 2015.

According to Unisa’s Lusani Netshitomboni, the university denies prior knowledge to these claims, saying it was only made aware of the reports on Friday.

Netshitomboni says they are treating the matter with urgency.

"If there are people who haven't been paid, those people should actually contact the university so that we can look at it and investigate it," he says.

"Prior to this issue being brought to our attention, the university was not aware of people who were not paid."


Unisa language policy to be argued in SCA

AfriForum's appeal follows a ruling by High court in Pretoria last year in favour of Unisa's policy declaring English as the primary language of instruction. AfriForum's Henk Maree says they feel very strongly about mother tongue education. "AfriForum will take any steps possible to protect and maintain the right of Afrikaans students to study at Unisa in their mother tongue."

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