Thousands of cleaners on strike

2011-08-08 13:00

Six more unions have joined a full-blown strike in the contract cleaning sector.

SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) chief negotiator Lungile Ntshuntshe said thousands of workers went on strike in all provinces across the country.

“Unions have not yet received a request from employers to meet for negotiations,” he said.

“About 40 000 workers are on strike in Johannesburg alone. We have even told employers that we would meet them on a public holiday.”

About 8 000 workers each in Eastern Cape and Western Cape also downed tools. There are a number of striking workers in other provinces as well, he said.

The strike was expected to lead to more than 100 000 contract cleaning workers walking off the job, but figures were not yet finalised by this afternoon.

Both the National Contract Cleaning Association (NCCA) and the Black Economic Empowerment Cleaning Association (Beeca) were hopeful an agreement could be reached soon.

Satawu is leading negotiations on behalf of the National Security and Unqualified Workers’ Union; the SA Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers’ Union; the National Union of Hotel Restaurant Catering, Commercial Health and Allied Workers; the SA Cleaners, Security and Allied Workers’ Union; and the Democratic Union of Security Workers.

Ntshuntshe said initial talks with employers failed in June.

A dispute was declared and the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration entered negotiations last month.

Two other unions representing workers – the Hotel, Liquor, Catering Commercial and Allied Workers’ Union of SA (Hotelicca) and the Professional Transport and Allied Workers’ Union of SA – went on strike last Monday.

On Tuesday Hotelicca general secretary Themba Zulu said about 6 000 workers would strike indefinitely until their demands were met.

The unions wanted the salaries of workers earning less than R2 400 a month increased to R4 200 a month. Those earning above R4 200 should get a 10% increase.

Other demands included a yearly 13th cheque, an eight-hour working day and for members in rural areas to be paid the same as their urban colleagues.

NCCA spokesperson Paul Roux said they originally offered a six percent increase, but improved the offer since negotiations started.

The strike has affected cleaning at old age homes, private hospitals, shopping centres and government institutions in every province except KwaZulu-Natal.

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