PMB strike intensifies

2015-12-10 11:15
Temporary staff at the Msunduzi municipal electricity, water and sanitation departments lit tyres and barricaded the entrance to the Doull Road depot.

Temporary staff at the Msunduzi municipal electricity, water and sanitation departments lit tyres and barricaded the entrance to the Doull Road depot. (Ian Carbutt, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - Striking municipal workers ­crippled the city yesterday as some ­essential services came to a halt.

Ratepayers have been warned that until the strike is resolved services like refuse collection and the repair and ­reconnection of electricity and water services will not take place.

By yesterday — day three of the strike — the city was inundated with ­complaints from residents about burst water pipes, refuse strewn across the streets by striking workers and ­uncollected refuse outside homes.

Motorists also had to contend with striking workers marching to the city hall, leaving a trail of refuse in the streets, and blocking traffic.

Acting municipal spokesperson Nqobile Madonda yesterday said the city had obtained an interdict against the striking workers.

“An interdict has been granted by the court this afternoon [yesterday] and is currently in the process of being served. In terms of the interdict workers are instructed to return to work ­immediately and to not interfere with those staff that choose to continue to work,” said Madonda.

The workers, who are demanding permanent employment, have camped day and night at the Doull Road depot since Monday.

Temporary workers from the water, sanitation and electricity departments barricaded the depot with burning tyres and piles of rubbish resulting in permanent workers unable to attend work.

One of the strikers, who asked not to be named, said the municipality needed to make them permanent or else the strike would ­continue.

“I have been a temporary employee for the past seven years. I earn R2 000 a month and am not on any medical scheme or receiving any benefits. We dedicate our time and effort to the ­municipality and they let us live like this,” said the worker.

He said that he worked on the city’s sewer pipes and on many occasions fell ill due to the stench and unhygienic conditions. “We are tired of being ­exploited. We also have families to feed and houses to run,” he said.

Municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi addressed the crowd after they had marched to the city hall.

“We want to be permanent and their city will run smoothly after they do that,” said another worker who wanted to remain anonymous.

The worker said that the city heads “always boast about R1 million in their coffers” yet the “real workers who keep the city clean are overlooked”.

“I have worked for five years as a ­temporary worker but all my salaries do not add up to even half of what the municipal manager earns a month,” said another worker.

Nkosi, who issued a letter on ­Monday demanding that all workers return to work, told the workers that the situation was beyond his control.

“I have spoken to the mayor and chief whip about this. I hope we will find a solution very soon,” he said.

The workers yelled at Nkosi, saying the issue was not a matter that needed to be dealt with by political heads.

In his letter to the strikers yesterday morning, Nkosi said that the strike ­action was “unprocedural and therefore unprotected” and the municipality had not received notice of the strike.

“For employees who are involved in the performance of essential services, please be advised that you are not ­allowed to embark on strike action and your grievances may be resolved through an arbitration process,” wrote Nkosi.

Madonda said the workers needed to address the grievances “constructively”.

“We will not be responding to their demands via the media. They need to engage constructively with council in order to find a solution to this current unfortunate situation we find ourselves in,” she said.

• Motorists are warned to exercise caution when driving in the city centre after the protest by municipal staff yesterday. Pietermaritz Street, between Peter Kerchoff and West streets, and parts off West Street are covered with rubbish, making for difficult driving.

Residents should brace themselves for ­uncollected refuse and essential service ­complaints going unheeded until the strike ends. This was the warning by protesting Msunduzi ­Municipality workers yesterday.

The Witness had received numerous calls ­yesterday about water problems that have ­remained unresolved.

Some roads in Mountain Rise have had no ­water since Tuesday morning. A burst pipe in ­Murray Road flooded a driveway and large area on the verge.

In Doull Road, 150 m away from the municipal depot, a pipe has been gushing water since ­Tuesday.

In Morcom Road, a fountain of water was seen yesterday coming from a burst pipe.

A caller who asked not to be identified said she was caught in the protest in front of the city hall yesterday. She described how the toyi-toyiing workers stopped the traffic and would not let cars pass. She said as some motorists tried to pass under the arch in front of the city hall, workers blocked their path by overturning concrete ­rubbish bins and strewing rubbish in the road.

“They also took rakes which had their prongs removed and were chasing the cars, bashing on them. I had four children in the car. It was quite scary,” said the woman.

She said eventually traffic officers arrived and helped direct the traffic around the protest.

A man who asked not to be identified said he was concerned about the water wastage from burst pipes, in light of the current drought. He said while he was sympathetic to the needs of the workers, he was disgusted at the mess they caused and the waste of water. He was concerned that sabotage may have been the cause of the burst pipe in Doull Road. “There is no need to do that,” he said.

Acting Msunduzi spokesperson Nqobile ­Madonda said that motorists who witnessed the damage to municipal property should report what they saw to the nearest police station.

She also said that the municipality was not investigating any acts of sabotage.

“Council is not aware of any sabotage, ­vandalism or cutting of water pipes, however, if members of the public witness any of these acts, such information and proof thereof needs to be brought to the attention of the municipality,” said Madonda.

She added that should municipal workers be found guilty of sabotage, they would be “brought to book” and the necessary disciplinary actions would follow.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  protest  |  strike

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