Protesters vow to strike on

2009-07-09 00:00

STRIKING construction workers on 2010 projects have vowed to continue with the strike until their demands for a 13% wage increase are met.

Hundreds of construction workers at the Moses Mabhida Stadium and the King Shaka International Airport downed tools to protest low wages yesterday.

In Durban, workers armed with placards and sticks danced and sang outside the stadium on Masabala Yengwa Drive (NMR Avenue), watched by police.

Police were stationed outside the stadium from 7 am after the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) announced that workers would protest.

Workers stopped work at midday to protest. They are seeking a 13% wage increase and a consolidation of their retirement fund.

The union also wants the employers to pay the 55% balance on maternity leave.

The King Shaka International Airport and Durban and Richards Bay harbour widening projects were also affected. Other projects include the Van Reenen Project, Ingula Power station and the Inanda Arterial Project.

Workers told The Witness they are angry that management of the construction companies take home “fat salaries”, while they earn so little. Some workers only earn R1 500 a month.

Worker Wilton Gebashe said it is impossible to support his family with the R1 800 he earns. “I work hard at the stadium, yet I earn so little. I think about the bosses and the thousands they earn and it makes me angry,” he said.

Gebashe said workers would continue to strike until their demands for better wages were met. “We will be back tomorrow to protest. We do an important job and it’s important that they listen to us.”

NUM representative Bhekani Ngcobo told the strikers the union would fight for their rights and prevent any worker from working during the strike. Ngcobo promised workers that they would earn better salaries in 2010.

“We will continue the withdrawal of labour. We will be back at the sites, but will not work,” he said.

Police spokesman Captain Khephu Ndlovu said workers were asked to stop the protest after the city had turned down their application to stage a picket.

“The crowd quickly left the stadium. No incidents of violence were reported,” he said.

“NUM is pleased to report that over 95% of the sites were hit by the strike,” union spokesman Lesiba Seshoka claimed in a statement.

“If they do not offer us 13%, we may demand 15% next week and 20% the following week. So, this matter is urgent,” said NUM negotiator Bhekani Ngcobo.

A meeting to discuss the wage dispute between NUM, the SA Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors (Safcec), the 2010 local organising committee and the Labour Department is scheduled for 10 am today.

World Cup local organising committee chief executive officer Danny Jordaan was optimistic about the negotiations.

“We believe that the strike will be resolved as soon as possible and remain confident that the stadiums will be completed on schedule,” he said in a statement.

— Sapa.

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