Why are dustmen striking?

2009-06-22 00:00

THERE was another lock-down at the Pietermaritzburg City Hall on Friday when waste management workers descended on the premises to demand the removal of waste management manager Richard Rajah.

Workers who spoke to The Witness on condition of anonymity said Rajah has failed to manage the division effectively.

Chief among their concerns are claims that Rajah failed to address the issue surrounding the ageing fleet of rubbish removal vehicles. Workers said it is difficult for them to do their jobs efficiently as most of the vehicles are more than 20 years old.

They also accused Rajah of favouritism and said they have a problem with the fact that there are too many casual employees in the waste department.

“We’ve tried talking to him about our problems in the past, but he just tells us that senior management is not supporting him,” said a worker.

This lock-down came days after municipal security guards padlocked entry and exit points at the city hall before gathering outside municipal manager Rob Haswell’s office to try and get him to address their concerns.

When The Witness went to the city hall on Friday, members of the public were denied access to the premises due to discussions between workers and senior management. Workers, who had downed tools for three days, said they were tired of being overlooked so they made a decision to gather in the city hall to try and get management to take their grievances seriously.

The Witness received a barrage of complaints from members of the public who demanded to know why their refuse had not been collected.

Belfort Estate resident Dev Naik, whose rubbish gets collected on Wednesdays, said he was forced to take his rubbish in at night due to neighbourhood dogs ripping up garbage bags.

“I then put it back out on the street in the mornings, but how long do I have to keep doing this? Soon we’re going to be paying astronomical rates, but we are not getting the service delivery that we’re supposed to,” he said.

Deputy municipal manager for community services Zwe Hulane said workers had embarked on an illegal work stoppage from Wednesday and a decision was taken that they will not be paid for work not done.

He said they asked workers to submit their concerns in writing and their submissions were discussed at the city hall on Friday. Workers were then told that an investigation would be conducted before a final decision was taken. “We would like to apologise for the inconvenience and the delay in collecting refuse, but we have approached external service providers to collect refuse,” he said.

Hulane said Exco has agreed that it will take a very tough stance to avoid this happening again in the future.

In February this year, city hall management met with waste management workers to address frustrations over working conditions and Rajah’s management.

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