City workers still on strike

2010-03-02 00:00

THERE seems to be no end in sight to the protest marches by Msunduzi Municipality employees, who are demanding that the responsibility of running the municipality should be taken by the provincial Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Department.

Employees from the electricity, traffic and waste management divisions continued their protest strike yesterday, re-affirming their determination not to return to work until Section 139 of the Constitution is implemented to allow the provincial government to take control of the municipality.

The marchers gathered outside the waste management division offices in Havelock Road, and the leaders of the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) told marchers to forge ahead with the protest, which includes grievances over the non-payment of overtime.

They said that they want Section 139 to be implemented as a matter of urgency and for the council’s executive committee (Exco) to be dissolved immediately. They said thay will continue to strike until their demands are met.

“If Exco is not dissolved and if overtime payments are not paid out, it is going to be war,” sang Samwu leaders.

Cosatu’s secretary in Pietermaritzburg, Zimasile Giyama, said that even the provincial executive committee of the trade union endorses the protests.

He said the union’s local branch has been lobbying its provincial counterparts since last year to have the municapality declared incapable of delivering services.

Giyama said Cosatu supports Samwu in calling for the dissolution of Exco and for the implementation of Section 139.

A three-man task team was recently appointed to assist the cash-strapped municipality in turning around its financial state and to produce a report after three months.

The report is likely to identify who is to be blamed for the cash crisis and it is expected that an investigation will be launched against those found to be responsible.

However, striking workers said that the task team is a waste of time and that an intervention is needed urgently.

Samwu leaders told The Witness yesterday afternoon that they have finalised plans to stage a big march tomorrow that will involve all municipal employees.

They said they cannot concern themselves with the state of the city’s cleanliness and refuse collection until their demands are met, and that services will be completely abandoned tomorrow.

The management committee, task team and Mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo met yesterday to consider the protesters’ demands, among other issues.

Hlatshwayo told The Witness that the municipality has four payment priorities: salaries, Eskom, Umgeni Water debts and long-term loans, adding that small and medium enterprises that owe the municipality money will be approached about a repayment plan over a period of months.

Hlatshwayo said it is unfair for workers whose overtime was authorised by managers to have Exco decide to scale down their overtime. She said the managers should be penalised because the council has no money to pay for overtime.

“We will engage the task team about paying for the legal overtime,” she said.

Regarding the strike tomorrow, she said that there will be staff to deal with emergencies.

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