PMB battling with filth as cleaners go on strike

2014-04-23 00:00

IF you’ve noticed that shopping malls, hospitals, government departments, including the legislature, and even the taxi rank in the city centre are filthy, that’s because cleaners in Pietermaritzburg — and the entire KwaZulu-Natal — have been on strike since April 14.

The strikers, who have put their demands on the table for an increase in their monthly wages, threw rubbish across streets and in shopping malls last week.

KZN South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) secretary Joseph Dube said currently their members in KZN were the lowest paid at only R11,90 per hour compared to their counterparts in other provinces who get R14,50 per hour.

Some of these Satawu workers are contracted to clean the city for the municipality.

Msunduzi spokesperson Madeleine Jackson-Plaatjies said the municipality has an existing partnership with Sakhumnotho, and that these staff will clean the refuse that has been strewn in the street by the strikers.

“However, in future, the municipal security will assist by ensuring that law and order is enforced when people embark on strikes and industrial action and choose to loot [sic] the streets with garbage. Law enforcement will include getting in the SAPS to deal with the looters.”

Sources said the striking Satawu workers had been threatening scab labour.

“We are demanding that there should be standardisation of wages across the country,” said Dube yesterday.

Dube said that cleaners were getting paid a “lousy” R1 600 a month before deductions and were expected to maintain a proper standard of living with that “ridiculous” amount of wages.

“Yet cleaners are the ones responsible for ensuring that the environment we work in is clean and conducive but they are treated as sub­human,” he said.

Dube said most of their members were single-parent women who also had to send their children to school like everybody else but they are treated as though they have no financial responsibilities.

He said whenever there is an increase, employers drastically reduce hours, so their members are only paid for four hours.

“… So at the end of the month they are paid less than R1 000,” he said.

Dube said the impact of the strike had been felt by some employers who were now willing to negotiate because they were losing clients but until all the employers agree to their demands they were going to continue with the strike.

“We want to send a strong message that enough is enough because we want our members to be treated like human beings instead of being treated as though they were nothing,” said Dube.

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