Court to rule on Pikitup strike

2011-04-18 11:08

Stuffed wheelie bins and piles of torn garbage bags lined the streets of Johannesburg again today ahead of a Labour Court judgment on whether a strike by municipal workers is legal.

About 80% of the city’s garbage collectors have refused to work until the City of Johannesburg signs an agreement to investigate allegations of irregularities at its waste management company Pikitup.

The workers, who are members of the SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu), also want casual workers to become permanent, and for wage disparities to be addressed.

The strike, which began on April 7, was preceded by an almost two-week go-slow, which according to Samwu spokesperson Tahir Sema, meant that although there was no strike, there was a sit in and no services were delivered.

The city announced on Friday that it had applied for an order to support its contention that the strike was not protected. Judgment was expected today.

Sema believed the court could not find the strike unprotected as the union had followed the procedures required to strike.

“The court already granted [permission for] a legal, protected strike action, so the court can’t rule against its own decision.

“It might order both parties back to the negotiating table to sign the document that has already been proposed.”

The court could also give the parties a certain amount of time to conclude an agreement.

Sema said the union had given the city time to investigate its complaints and had threatened to take the matter to the public protector “but nothing happened”. The DA also wanted a probe, he said.

He said the union last week assembled documentation backing its claims, and sent this to the protector, after a request by the Special Investigating Unit.

Pikitup employees also wanted to submit documentation.

The strike was still at Johannesburg branch level, but the union could lobby for support from other affiliates.

In the meantime, Samwu strikers were not receiving their pay. They had the option of applying to the union’s strike fund for a stipend to tide them over, but no applications had been received yet.

Pikitup managing director Zami Nkosi, Pikitup board chairperson Phumla Radebe and several board members have resigned since the strike started.?

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