After weeks of the municipal workers’ strike, the cleaners at the residences have recommenced their duties. The UP workers in res officially started working again on 12 September after they offically went on strike from 1 August. According to certain cleaners, the contractors paid the cleaners R135 for the 5 days of work they had done prior to the strike but the cleaners were told to find alternative means of surviving during the strike.In some residences, the overflowing trash bins were a clear indication that something was not right. According to some students in res, staying in res during the cleaners’ absence was a nightmare. “Our corridors were filthy and at one stage we could not stand in our shower as it had got so dirty,” said Busisiwe Nhlapo, Nerina Vice-Primaria. According to Herkie Smit, Tuks’s Head of Housing Facilities, the contractors provided the residences with temporary cleaners and a skeleton staff (two workers instead of five). TuksRes outsources cleaning services to four companies. Some of the cleaners didn’t wear their uniforms when they came to work because they feared intimidation by strikers. Nhlapo was told by one of the cleaners that the intimidation was intense. “The violence employed on workers who refused to strike was most disconcerting,” said Nhlapo. Emily Sithole, a cleaner at Jasmyn, added that it was difficult to come to work, especially if you travelled by train. “Those of us who usually travel by train couldn’t use the train anymore because strikers would wait for people at the train station gates,” said Sithole. “If they saw that you were in your uniform, they would force you to take it off. But we tried our best to be at work everyday,” added Sithole.
Smit pointed out that one of the challenges that TuksRes faced during the workers’ strike was getting students to cooperate. Smit also confirmed that the skeleton staff did not clean the bathrooms and corridors in some residences Nhlapo said that temporary cleaners were sent to their res but that they didn’t make a difference. Despite the governement rejecting the demand for an 18% increase, the clearners are back, the residences have been cleaned and students can now shower without the fear of catching something from a dirty bathroom. “We are happy that things are back to normal,” said Smit. “We are glad to have the cleaning staff back and appreciate the risks they take to ensure we live in a comfortable and clean environment,” added Nhlapo.
Photo: Katlego Mkhwanazi