Ongoing labour unrest at interchange hits businesses

2014-05-13 00:00

BUSINESSES in the Springfield area are reeling this week after learning that ongoing labour unrest at the N2/Umgeni interchange construction site may only result in work being completed by December.

The company contracted to the project, Rumdel Cape Construction, last week fired about 350 of its employees for embarking on an illegal strike over unpaid bonuses.

It is not clear how long the construction site will remain closed but Bhekani Ngcobo, provincial co-ordinator of the National Union of Mineworkers, said the employer had yesterday invited the fired workers to fetch their UIF cards.

“There is likely to be a serious confrontation here between anyone new brought onto the site to work and those who were dismissed. We know this is a Sanral project but we have approached the eThekwini Municipality for intervention to resolve the issue. We are yet to hear from them. Rumdel says their decision is final,” said Ngcobo.

As a result of the traffic congestion, some business owners had re-adjusted their opening and closing times to ensure that employees arrived in time for work.

Elvis Govender, Hirsch’s manager in the area, said they had allowed employees to start at 8.30 am and go home at 5.30 pm. “Normally we work an 8 am to 5 pm shift but due to the traffic congestion in the morning, the staff were arriving late for work. We are losing our customers because of that interchange. I’ve seen in my visits overseas, especially in Australia, how they carry out road construction work at night,” said Govender.

Ahmed Shaik, another businessman in the area, said the delays would lead to small businesses closing down.

“This thing is chasing business away. The project was meant to alleviate traffic congestion in the area but it looks like with the continued delays, the exact opposite is achieved. Who wants to get stuck at the intersection for 30 minutes while there are other alternative routes? When motorists choose other routes, that means no customers for us in this area,” said Shaik.

He said, among other things, business people have to worry about paying rent, rates and services as well as salaries.

“If you spend the better part of the day in a shop with no customers, how do you pay for all these needs? The contractor must get the job done for the sanity of the general public,” he said.

The N2/Umgeni interchange construction site was deserted yesterday. At the site offices, the gates were locked and a security guard barred The Witness from gaining entry.

Tozi Mthethwa, eThekwini’s head of communications, said they were concerned about the delays and hoped that the matter would be resolved soon.

CEO of the Durban Chamber of Business, Andrew Layman, said it was unfortunate that economic progress is being obstructed by labour issues. “If we are to achieve the necessary economic growth of six percent, the country as a whole must work towards that in an integrated fashion. Anything less will result in more job losses,” said Layman.

Sanral had not responded at the time of going to print.

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