DA condemns Samwu's 'violent' action
Johannesburg - The Democratic Alliance (DA) has condemned "the violent and destructive protest action" by striking SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) members on the streets of Cape Town, Johannesburg and elsewhere.
"This malicious damage to property adds renewed urgency to the DA's private member's bill that seeks to hold unions liable for the damage their members cause," the party said on Tuesday.
"Tomorrow [Wednesday], at the meeting of the private member's legislative proposal committee, the DA will ask why it has taken so long for the committee to discuss the legislation we submitted in March. We will ensure that it receives top priority."
The countrywide strike by Samwu began on Monday. The union has demanded an 18% pay increase while the SA Local Government Association has offered 6%.
The DA said it supported and recognised the constitutional right to strike, but deplored the violence, intimidation and destruction of private and state-owned property that had become a common feature of industrial action.
"Not surprisingly, Cosatu [Congress of SA Trade Unions] has rubbished the DA's private member's bill, with its General-Secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, stating that he would personally make sure that the bill is kept out of Parliament on the grounds that it would bankrupt the unions.
"We say that if Mr Vavi wants to protect the finances of his unions, he should do something to stop his members from trashing our cities."
The DA added that its private member's bill would propose that the unions be forced to take pro-active steps to prevent their members from engaging in violence; that courts be empowered to stop a strike that had become excessively violent by forcing the parties into arbitration; and that courts be empowered to award punitive damages against unions whose members had committed violence, injured innocent parties or damaged property in the course of industrial action.
"The DA will continue to ensure that the democratic right to strike is exercised responsibly and will not shy away from holding the unions to account for the behaviour of their members.
Earlier, Sapa reported that municipal workers had looted from vendors, set plastic bins on fire and smashed the windows of vehicles as they protested for higher salaries in the Cape Town city centre.
"Shortly after 14:00 the city's main shopping avenue, Adderley Street, was covered with litter and burned-out bins.
"A number of vendors who sell goods such as cosmetics, coffee, wallets and belts on the pavements of the street were unpacking goods they had tried to hide as the workers approached."
Sapa added that shops on the street locked their doors as the workers, who were seen smashing the windows of vehicles, approached.
Parliament, near the top end of Adderley Street, was also cordoned off by the police.
Thirteen protesters were arrested. They would be charged with public violence, police said.