City strike is over

2010-03-08 00:00

THE strike by Msunduzi Municipa­lity employees that lasted for almost two weeks has ended, and residents and businesses alike can look forward to their city being cleaned this week.

Protesters from the electricity, waste management, public safety and water divisions took to the streets on February 24 calling for the dissolution of the executive committee (Exco), saying it has run the municipality into the ground.

The workers cited Co-operative Governance MEC Nomusa Dube’s announcement last month that the municipality is in a financial crisis, left with only enough money for one week’s operations.

Besides calling on Dube to invoke section 139 of the Constitution, under which the MEC can assume control of the municipality, the workers were also protesting about the non-payment of overtime pay for January and February.

During the protests, collection of rubbish was abandoned and heaps of trash festered on the streets, sparking an outcry from businesses and residents.

The deputy chairman of the Pietermarizburg branch of the SA Muni­cipal Workers’ Union (Samwu), Sakhile Ngcobo, confirmed that the strike has been called off, for now.

He said they called it off in symphathy with residents and businesses, but have not dropped their demand for the implementation of section 139.

“We have given the MEC [Dube] until next week Tuesday, and if the MEC’s response is favourable to us, we will discuss it with our members and decide on a way forward.

“The protests are not over: they have been called off for now,” said Ngcobo.

Acting municipal manager Kevin Perumal said the strike was illegal because the workers had never brought their grievances to management or Exco beforehand. He said that in meetings with union representatives, management established the protests were in pursuance of a political agenda.

He said the council had to seek an interdict to compel workers to get back to work and compel striking workers to stop intimidating non-strikers.

However, Ngcobo denied that Samwu members had intimidated non-striking workers, adding that the protests were peaceful and did not lead to damage of council property.

“We narrowed it down and we could tell who were on strike. Some 3 200 workers were at work,” said Perumal.

Exco authorised a clean-up of the city with the approval of the KwaZulu-Natal Treasury task team.

“The campaign commenced on Friday with the employment of gene­ral workers and hiring of vehicles and necessary trucks. We envisage that the clean-up will take approximately a week or less,” said Perumal.

“We want to reassure the community that as council we are doing everything in our power and within our available resources to bring to normality our working environment in order to provide adequate and sustainable services.”

Perumal apologised for the inconvenience, saying services will return to normal today.

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