Strike meeting turns ugly

2010-04-16 15:35

A number of SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) members and a

police officer were injured after clashes in Port Elizabeth during a

meeting.

Captain Johann Rheeder said the incident occurred in the Port

Elizabeth CBD, where a group of Samwu members gathered for a meeting

today.

Rheeder said: “Police were on scene to monitor the situation. As a

policeman was walking in front of them, one of the worker’s threw a half brick

at his head.

“The policeman fell to the ground, and other police officers on

duty began firing rubber bullets at the crowd. A number of workers were

injured,” he said.

Netcare 911 spokesperson Chris Botha said the protesters sustained

minor injuries and were transported to hospital for treatment.

Rheeder said the police officer was in a serious condition and was

wounded on the head and on his left eye.

“Things are quiet now... the group is still waiting within the CBD,

but are not being unruly,” Rheeder said.

Police also had water cannons on standby in case violence broke out

again. The incident comes after Samwu said that all picketing would be halted so

workers could be briefed on a new offer by the employers.

Samwu spokesperson Tahir Sema said: “There’s nothing planned for

today as branch representatives around the country meet with workers to solicit

a mandate that Salga [SA Local Government Association] has brought to the

table.”

Samwu’s 35 branches nationally are meeting with workers to see what

the general consensus on the matter is. Several hundred members in Bloemfontein

today also staged a protest but authorities would not accept their

memorandum.

In the Eastern Cape, 44 members appeared in the Cradock Magistrates

Court today for charges of public violence, police said.

They were arrested yesterday for allegedly burning tyres in front

of municipal buildings in the area and picketing.

“The arrested were released on bail and their case was postponed to

April 20,” Warrant Officer Elmarie Van Eck said.


Samwu ‘optimistic’

Sema said Samwu was optimistic after marathon talks with Salga

started in Johannesburg on Wednesday. The talks were set to resume at Midrand’s

Gallaghar Estate this afternoon.

Samwu’s national executive committee would then meet

tomorrow.

Sema said: “This meeting will discuss Salga’s mandate, as well as

the marathon meetings that have been occurring. We will address some of the key

issues that directly relate to our demands. We feel that we are making good

progress.”

Late yesterday, amid countrywide protest marches, Samwu announced

it was close to ending the strike. Samwu’s Gauteng secretary Vincent Vena said:

“We are almost on the verge [of ending this strike]. We have been able to find

each other on contentious issues.”

The Samwu strike, demanding market-related salaries for lower- and

middle-income employees, started on Monday.

It wanted this to apply to higher ranking officials’ salaries too

as Samwu charged they were overpaid and awarding themselves perks. The strike

continued on today.

The Democratic Alliance in Gauteng slammed the behaviour the

workers’ behaviour. DA Gauteng local government spokesperson, Fred Nel, said:

“While we do not deny any worker the right to strike, that right requires them

to be responsible when executing that right.”

 

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