Guard strike: City hall under siege

2009-06-18 00:00

CITY hall was under siege for almost two hours when municipal security personnel locked entry and exit points and toyi-toyied outside municipal manager Rob Haswell’s office yesterday.

The security personnel refused to let city hall employees leave the building and those who wanted to enter were denied access.

Chief among the security employees’ grievances is a salary back-payment that has allegedly been delayed for 26 months.

The security guards told The Witness that each of the 120 guards is owed R700 over a 26-month period. In total, they allege that they are owed more than R2,1 million in back pay.

They also allege that traffic officers are favoured over them although they work for the same public safety division. Traffic officers, they alleged, received their back payments last August, within days of demanding them.

The officers were paid between R30 000 and R40 000 each, claimed the guards. The guards said that they were referred to the Labour Forum when they demanded their payment. They claimed that Msunduzi Municipality Mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo had stone-walled them when they raised the matter in the forum.

They alleged the mayor did this because she was of the view that the security guards sided with her rival in the municipality, council speaker Alpha Shelembe.

Hlatshwayo could not be reached for comment at the time of going to print.

South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) shop steward for security Bhekisisa Zulu said that experienced security guards are overlooked for senior positions in favour of outsiders.

“The fact that only two candidates from public safety were short listed and interviewed out of at least 20 officers who we consider suitable is of great concern to us,” he said.

Only Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (Prisa) qualifications were accepted and not the qualifications offered by the municipality, said Zulu.

At first, Haswell refused to address the guards and called for them to return to work. Eventually, he addressed them after they indicated that they were not budging until he spoke to them.

After listening to their demands, Haswell said that although he understood their frustrations, no one had the right to lock the city hall.

“You cannot make it impossible for people to use the city hall. If a delegation wants to see me, I’m usually available but this must be done through the proper channels,” he said.

Haswell said he was committed to solving labour issues and made an undertaking to address their matters speedily.

He requested that the guards give him some time to investigate their concerns and assured that he would report back the findings tomorrow.

Last year the security guards locked entrances to the city hall, denying access to management and employees.

The guards demanded salary increases. Staff and management waited hours before gaining access following a brokering of an agreement between the guards and Haswell.

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