Cosatu flexes muscles

2012-03-07 00:00

MASS action today is expected to bring Pietermaritzburg and the rest of the country to a standstill.

Municipal services, schools, hospitals and businesses are expected to be affected, as Cosatu’s day-long national stayaway against labour brokering and the e-tolling system in Gauteng takes hold.

While no marches were expected in the capital, buses would ferry city protesters to marches in Durban, Newcastle and Richards Bay.

Commuters relying on taxis will not be affected.

Yesterday, Boy Zondi, the chairperson of the Msunduzi Taxi Council, said Cosatu had not approached it for support and it would be a normal working day.

Last night Cosatu secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi warned that today’s strike was not a once off.

Speaking on Metro FM, he said: “This is not just a once off, today it is Gauteng and next will be Durban and then Cape Town. We have heard that they are taking these toll gates to Durban.”

He warned today’s strike would be massive as it would pull teachers out of classrooms as they too were affected by these issues.

Labour brokering and toll gates were at the forefront of pushing poor people into the abyss of poverty with many barely surviving.

On toll gates, he said it was intolerable that roads were being commoditised and money siphoned off to overseas corporations.

“Previously when this issue of toll gates started, they said we need one or two between Johannesburg and Durban. Count how many there are now and how much we are paying for travelling between those distances.”

Msunduzi Municipality manager Mxolisi Nkosi told The Witness last night he had negotiated for essential staff to remain on duty.

On his staff are some 2 500 members of the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu), most of whom will enjoy protection.

“We have an essential services agreement with the union and we expect workers in the essential services to report for duty and will be monitoring them on an hourly basis.” Nkosi said.

“This is a protected strike so [non-essential services] members will not be subjected to any disciplinary action if they do not come to work, but the no work, no pay rule will apply.”

However, essential services staff who failed to come to work, would face action.

Essential staff include fire fighters, traffic officers, water and sanitation as well as electricity personnel.

Nokubonga Dinga, Samwu’s Moses Mabhida regional secretary, said she expected all members to stay away. “Some will be part of the industrial action in various parts of the province.”

She said buses had been organised to ferry their members.

The nationwide protest against e-tolling in Gauteng and labour brokers has been organised by the Confederation of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu).

Nurses, teachers and pupils are also expected to stay away in great numbers.

Shortly before going to press, the National Education and Health Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), which has more than 17 000 public health members in KZN, and the South African Democratic Nurses Union (Sadnu) said they would participate.

The nurses’ participation counters provincial health spokesperson Chris Maxon’s hopes that nurses would stay at work, having last year taken a resolution that their patients came first.

“We hope that they will uphold their commitment which they took in April during the Nurses’ Summit,” he added.

KZN’s 67 884 members of the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) are also expected to stay away from work.

“When the government has programmes at schools there is no talk of pupils’ future being disturbed,” Zet Luzipo, Cosatu provincial secretary said, defending the effect on schooling.

“One day would not affect their future when pupils embarked on a march to fight for their parents to earn better salaries.”

The strike has drawn support on the e-tolling front from the Congress of the People (Cope) and Solidarity.

Business groups said it appears that the industrial sector in Pietermaritzburg will avoid the full impact. Melanie Veness, CEO of the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business (PCB), told The Witness that city factories were not expecting major disruption to their operations. She added that some businesses had initially planned to change their shifts or place workers on short-time. However, they have reverted back to a business-as-usual approach.


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