Crackdown on strikers

2011-08-18 00:00

MSUNDUZI Municipality has applied for a court interdict against council employees who are members of the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu), after striking staff on Tuesday reportedly cut water and electricity to parts of the city and intimidated non-striking staff.

Municipal spokesperson Brian Zuma pointed out that while the strike is protected, workers who render essential services “are not protected in terms of the strike”.

Zuma said the municipality is trying to secure a court interdict to compel essential services employees to return to work and so protect those employees who do not want to strike against intimidation.

The interdict is expected to be finalised today.

“Clearly we are not against the strike per se. However, the provisions of a protected strike need to be upheld,” Zuma said. He commended the members of the fire and security departments for continuing to render their services.

“The problematic essential services in the main are the electricity department, water and sanitation,” Zuma said.

The strikers went on a rampage on Tuesday, trashing the city’s main streets. Electricity and water went out in most parts of the city and — according to The Witness sources — striking workers had a hand in sabotaging these services.

On Tuesday night contract workers who were roped in to clean the city were intimidated — allegedly by striking workers — and fled without cleaning the rubbish strewn by marching strikers.

A contractor who declined to be named said he saw contractors fleeing from men wielding sticks. A council manager confirmed that two contract workers sustained minor injuries when they jumped off a moving vehicle to escape men wielding sticks.

Zuma said the municipality is aware that some contract workers were intimidated.

“We are going to provide security for them to carry on doing their job. We are going to embark on a campaign to clean the streets once we have a plan.” The operation will be only for the CBD.

When questioned about the outages, Zuma said all the affected areas had their electricity restored yesterday.

Msunduzi Samwu chairperson Lucky Zimu told union members at a Samwu gathering that it would not be an act of sabotage if traffic lights, water and electricity are not working today; all the outages would be due to the fact that the people who work on these services have embarked on a strike.

“We also distance ourselves from the reports that we had anything to do with power outages and water cut-off on Tuesday,” he said.

He said electricity and water had been a problem way before the strike began, particularly in Sweetwaters and Hilton.

However, Zuma confirmed that the water cuts in some areas of the city were due to sabotage.

The union members also called for the acting municipal manager, Thokozani Maseko, to go because he had applied for an interdict against the union instead of paying them. This shows that the municipality does have money, but that it would rather pay to take the union to court.

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