ANC leader must support claim against strikers, says De Lille

2011-08-17 07:18

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille today called on the leader of the ANC in the city, Tony Ehrenreich, to support a claim for damages from striking municipal workers who went on a rampage in the city yesterday.

“This administration condemns the unacceptably high levels of reported violence [and] intimidation of non-striking workers and property damage by Samwu [the SA Municipal Workers Union] workers during the strike,” De Lille said in a statement.

“This administration respects the right of workers to strike as a fundamental labour right in our democracy. We do not respect the exploitation of those rights to cause damage and threaten others.

“I call on the leader of the opposition in the city council, councillor Tony Ehrenreich, to join me in condemning illegal behaviour and to support the city claiming for damages from Samwu.”

The strikers, some wearing red Samwu T-shirts, looted from vendors, set plastic bins on fire and smashed the windows of vehicles as they protested for higher wages.

The city’s main shopping avenue, Adderley Street, was left covered with litter and burnt out bins yesterday.

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.
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 and would be charged with public violence, police said.

Violence was also reported in other parts of the city, including in the suburb of Parrow.

Samwu is demanding an 18% pay increase.

The SA Local Government Association is offering 6%.

Ehrenreich, who leads labour federation Cosatu in Western Cape, addressed the workers outside of the city’s offices at the start of the strike on Monday.

The city has warned striking municipal workers that it will take “whatever action is necessary” to protect its property.

De Lille said the city would review CCTV footage of the violence yesterday.

“The city will identify those employees who have acted in an unlawful manner against the safety of our employees, members of our community and public property,” she said.

“Where we find evidence of criminal behaviour, we will consider instituting both disciplinary and possibly criminal charges against the offenders.”

The city would also assess all damages to property by Samwu and its members.
“We shall reserve the right to claim these costs from Samwu as we have done in the past,” De Lille said.

The strike is set to continue today.

Opposition MPs have condemned the “pathetic and reckless” behaviour of the strikers.

Independent Democrats MP Sarah Paulse said: “The Independent Democrats strongly condemns the pathetic and reckless behaviour of municipal workers embarking on strike action in Adderley Street a few hours ago. It is unacceptable that private and public property is being destroyed and damaged by strikers.”

Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Ian Ollis said the violent nature of the strike and the “malicious damage to property” added “renewed urgency” to a private member’s bill that seeks to hold unions liable for the damage their members cause.

“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,” Ollis said.

“The DA supports and recognises the constitutional right to strike, but we deplore the violence, intimidation and destruction of private and state-owned property that has become a common feature of industrial action.”

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