Three arrested over strike

2008-09-18 00:00

Three union shop stewards involved in the illegal strike at the municipality were arrested last night by the South African Police Service .

The arrests came shortly after the municipality successfully secured a high court interdict through the Labour Court in Durban, declaring the strike illegal.

The interdict was granted preventing the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) and the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu) from continuing with their strike action.

The interdict compels workers to stop assaulting, intimidating employees, agents and customers of the municipality and from obstructing access to municipal buildings.

A striker was arrested following the hijacking of a refuse removal truck in the waste management division. The refuse truck was being escorted by two security vehicles when a third municipal vehicle blocked its way.

A worker disembarked from the car, yanked the keys out of the truck’s ignition and fled with them.

According to acting municipal manager Zwe Hulane, two shop stewards were also arrested. He said further arrests are imminent.

Strikers took to the streets on Wednesday over wage demands. They held the city to ransom by cutting power and water to most parts of the city.

By yesterday afternoon, The Witness had been inundated with calls and e-mails from residents who have been without water and electricity for two days.

Residents expressed outrage calling the strikers “selfish” and “inconsiderate”. Many were counting the cost of the strike to businesses and other workers in the city. Some farmers, who claim they may have lost hundreds of thousands of rands because they were prevented from trading at the market, are considering suing the municipality.

Briefing council executive committee members on the impact of the strike on service delivery, Hulane said it appeared that the strikers had returned to cut power and water that had already been restored on Wednesday.

e told the committee that to take back control of municipal services, they had strengthened the presence of police and private security companies.

Mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo said the council would not allow strikers to hold management to ransom. She said she and Hulane had met Cosatu representatives on Wednesday night and learnt for the first time about the strikers’ grievances.

“We commend those workers who did not join the illegal strike. There is a labour forum meeting scheduled for next week Tuesday where the strikers will raise their grievances in a proper manner,” said Hlatshwayo.

Yesterday some parts of the city continued to be without water and electricity.

University of KwaZulu-Natal students inundated The Witness with e-mails complaining that they were unable to bath, eat or drink as they had no access to water.

One student said that the situation was “hazardous” and that the authorities were contemplating shutting down the university until the water was restored.

On Doull Road, municipal vehicles that were used by strikers to barricade the entrances were towed away under the watchful eye of the police, who stepped up their presence to assist in restoring order.

Hulane said that they had restored water in affected areas such as Lincoln Meade, Pelham, Woodlands, Bisley, Scottsville, Hayfields and Oribi. He said that other areas were still experiencing low pressures due to the low levels in the reservoirs, but the situation was expected to improve overnight.

By late yesterday the strike showed signs of dying down, with fewer workers participating in the illegal action.

Attempts to get comments from the union representative were unsuccessful.

thandom@witness.co.za

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