Officials flee amid violent pay row

2010-04-20 00:00

SENIOR Msunduzi Municipality officials had to run for their lives yesterday when angry part-time employees, who were demanding their outstanding pay, attacked them and tried to hold them hostage.

They first manhandled the foreman, Rugan Polliah, but left when the supervisor, Siva Phakathi, arrived a minute later. Phakhathi got into his white Citi Golf and drove away as the part-time waste collectors tried to drag him out of his vehicle.

They said they had heard enough of his “false payment promises”.

They became angry after they found that their wages had not been deposited into their bank accounts yesterday morning.

The incident happened at the waste management buildings at the City Engineer’s Department in Mayor’s Walk at about 10 am while fulltime employees were toyi-toying inside the building.

Said one of the part-timers: “As Tap-tap [Phakathi] got out of his car, we grabbed him with the intention of assaulting him and holding him until he pays us. But he managed free himself and drove away.”

Polliah, who ran away while the workers were manhandling Phakathi, returned later to promise them that they will be paid on Friday.

“If we continue to work here, never bring Tap-tap before us because we are going to kill him,” said an employee.

Others distanced themselves from the threats, saying they don’t want to be held accountable if something happens to Phakathi.

The part-time workers were employed on March 5 as garbage collectors.

Said 21-year-old Lunga Ndlela, “We work night shifts between between 2 pm and 4 am. We work a total of 20 hours. All along, we have been walking from Woodlands because we do not have minibus taxi fare.”

Other part-timers said they are annoyed that truck drivers are paid every week.

“One driver, Mafutha, who is also a part-time worker, is always boasting to us about being paid. He was telling us that he bought a new stove for his wife.

“One day he stopped a truck near Debonair’s [pizza parlour] and bought food, which he ate while boasting about his wages,” said Smiso Ngidi.

Thamsanqa Ndaba was bitten by two dogs while on duty. He said the municipality took him to hospital, but never compensated him. He has fresh wounds on the stomach, neck and left arm.

Another worker shouted at Polliah that he is tired of walking from home to work because he does not have money.

“This morning I walked from Woodlands, with my bank card in my pocket, hoping to find my payment in my account. This is what Tap-Tap [Phakathi] promised us on Friday, the day we were supposed to be paid,” said a worker.

Polliah said he had referred the workers’ grievances to his superiors, who promised to release the payments on Friday.

“You will get the salary on Friday. This is the best I could do for you,” he told them.

Polliah said he understood the workers’ anger because they had been given empty promises.

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