Volunteers won’t steal our jobs, say strikers

2010-08-24 00:00

TEACHERS and other Education Department strikers in KwaZulu-Natal say they won’t let volunteers take over their jobs.

Addressing hundreds of SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) members at Freedom Square yesterday, provincial secretary Mbuyiseni Mathonsi described these volunteers as amasela [thieves] and strike breakers, who are out to steal jobs.

Sadtu’s meeting yesterday was a direct swipe against moves by civil society volunteers and those mobilised by the ANC.

At the weekend, KZN Premier Zweli Mkhize and ANC provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala publicly condemned the intimidation of non-striking workers and called for volunteers to assist in schools and hospitals.

Volunteers mobilised by doctors are already assisting at Grey’s Hospital in the city and at hospitals around the country.

Sadtu leaders have said they will intensify the strike by making good on threats to close down private and former Model C schools.

“Why was he [Mkhize] so worried about us closing Model C schools or private schools? Why didn’t he question the closing down of schools in Imbali? That shows that we are hurting them where it hurts. We are going to close Michaelhouse. We are going to close Hilton [College] …

“We will negotiate with the private schools and they will listen to us,” he added.

Mathonsi said the ANC, which has about 600 000 members, cannot tell Cosatu, with two million members, what to do.

“The power we used to put them up is the same power we will use to bring them down. Don’t cower. The ANC knows that it got to the top through strikes.”

While the KZN Education Department has welcomed the court order obtained by the provincial government barring striking workers from entering government offices and coming within 50 metres of schools, Mathonsi said a court interdict is nothing more than a “romantic letter”, which is “very wanting in English and misleading in context”.

He also condemned “acts of intimidation” by police on strikers.

“If they come to us with guns, we will bring guns. If they come with violence, we will give corresponding action.”

Mathonsi said police can never arrest all 1,3 million public sector workers at once and strikers should make these arrests unworkable.

“Don’t be afraid of being arrested. If one is arrested, we must all go in.”

In a joint statement issued by Cosatu and SACP yesterday after their bilateral meeting in Pinetown on Sunday, the organisations said they were concerened about increasing acts of intimidation and violence by both sides.

“Stopping people from receiving services from government departments is not acceptable. Damage to property, especially state property, is a criminal act and cannot be condoned.

“Provoking striking workers and using state organs in an attempt to break the strike is a repressive act left to authoritarian and undemocratic regimes,” the statement read.

The alliance partners called on unions and the government to go back to the negotiations “and resolve this matter in the interest of peace, development, economy and nation building”.

They also raised concerns over reports of attempts to mobilise the community against the strike, including organising what they called “scab labour” disguised as volunteers.

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