No deal made with strikers

2008-09-22 00:00

The Msunduzi Municipality has not struck a deal with the workers who embarked on an illegal strike last week and whose actions involved sabotage of the city’s water and electricity supplies, municipal manager Rob Haswell said yesterday.

At a press conference held at the city hall, he said criminal investigations into the activities of the workers, particularly those involved in sabotage, are continuing and more arrests could follow. Haswell stressed that the three arrests already made still stand. The only undertaking the municipality has given to the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) is that it is not going to oppose bail.

He said the “no work, no pay” rule will apply and that internal disciplinary measures are also to be undertaken, which could result in some workers losing their jobs. The municipality will apply to the Labour Court for compensation to the city for losses incurred as a result of the sabotage and the illegal strike.

“I am in the process of compiling a comprehensive report that deals with the assessment of costs which we estimate runs into several millions,” he added.

Haswell said that any suggestions that the municipality has struck a deal with the illegal strikers or that it has admitted to any fault on its part for what happened in the city last week have to be rejected with contempt.

He was reacting to a statement made by SAMWU provincial organiser Sipho Biyela, who told The Witness that the issue of the strike has been mutually resolved.

Haswell stated categorically that the municipality admits to no fault on its part and that at no stage did it agree that criminal charges will be dropped. “In any event, this is the prerogative of the judicial system and we will assist the process,” he said.

According to Haswell, in the 24 years that he has been with the municipality he has not known of sabotage of water and electricity systems during a strike. “This was unprecedented, alarming and highly dangerous. Water is a basic human right and vulnerable residents — children and the aged as well as schools and hospitals — were affected,” he added.

Haswell thanked senior management in the municipality for working round the clock and in life-threatening situations to ensure service delivery in the city.

He thanked residents and businesses, many of whom were placed under a great deal of stress and were traumatised by the unfolding events. ”We will do whatever we can to ensure something like this never happens again. We are committed to dealing in a fair and legal manner with staff issues and through agreed channels, including the local labour forum,” said Haswell. He urged the unions, SAMWU and IMATU, to do likewise. A Labour Forum meeting is planned for today.

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