The streets of anger and frustration

2011-08-20 17:09

Sweeping the streets of Samora Machel Township in Philippi is a job City of Cape Town ­employee Iris Dywili “hates”.

Now 52 years old, she’s been doing it for 17 years and the dust kicked up from sweeping makes her asthma worse. She also suffers from arthritis.

“I stand for eight hours a day sweeping the streets. I’m always coughing because of the dust. I don’t like this work because I’m picking up sicknesses. I’m sick now after 17 years of doing this,” she says.

Iris takes home R2 000 a month after medical aid, pension fund and UIF ­deductions are made from her gross monthly salary of R4 300.

She says the R2 000 does not cover her monthly expenses and she is R30 000 in debt.

Iris is a single mother of three sons – aged 24, 21 and 8 – and is the only employed person in her family.

She supports her unemployed sister, cousin and mother. She also has to support her youngest son, and pays R500 a month towards her 21-year-old son’s fees for his studies at the ­University of the Western Cape.

She says she has tried to ­apply for a child support grant for her eight-year-old son, but she does not qualify because she is a city employee.

Iris’s cousin, mother and ­sister receive R250 each from her each month, and her youngest son’s school fees are R100 a term, or roughly R30 a month.

She also pays R900 a month for her three-bedroom RDP house in Delft. This includes water and electricity costs.

She shares the house with her three sons and father. Her father gives his R1?000 monthly pension to her to buy food.

The SA Muncipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) is demanding an 18% wage hike. This would mean that Iris could take home an estimated R700 extra. It would make a huge difference to her life.

However, the SA Local ­Government Association is ­offering a 6% wage hike.

Samwu general secretary Mthandeki Nhlapo is awaiting reports from structures in all the provinces to explain the cause of apparent strike apathy in cities such as Johannesburg and Durban.

When Iris is asked what she thinks of Sawmu members trashing the streets of Cape Town and looting traders’ stalls, she says she never participated in such action, but workers do it because they are angry and ­frustrated, and it’s the only way to get employers to listen and act quickly.

“It’s the anger and frustration of the workers. They do this so the employer can answer ­quickly. The 6% wage hike ­offered by the SA Local ­Government Association can do nothing. It’s an insult. They don’t care. They don’t see the people suffering,” she says.

“If I get the 18% increase, it will be an achievement for me. It will be much better.”

» View dramatic strike pics from Bloemfontein, Durban, Pretoria, Cape Town and Johannesburg:

– West Cape News, with additional reporting by Cedric Mboyisa

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