Work on Umgeni Road interchange comes to a standstill

2014-05-12 00:00

CONSTRUCTION on Durban’s N2 Umgeni Road interchange has come to a standstill after the contractor, Rumdel Cape Construction, fired all employees for engaging in an unprotected strike.

Bhekani Ngcobo, of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) which represents the employees, said they were fired last week.

According to Ngcobo, there was an agreement between the parties that bonuses would be paid every time the employees reached certain segments of the bridge in the construction process.

“In April 7 the workers were supposed to have reached a certain deck and this did not happen due to some engineering fault. The employer also acknowledged that the target could not be reached and extended the date. The employees said since it was not their fault that they could not meet the target, they deserved to be paid their bonuses.”

On April 8, about 50 employees downed tools. The employer gave them an ultimatum to return to work, stating that if they had grievances proper procedures needed to be followed for the issues to be addressed.

“The employees ignored the ultimatum and on the 29th the employer suspended them,” said Ngcobo. “The next day the rest of the crew sent shop stewards instructing the employer to suspend all of them, not a certain group.”

The employer then fired all of the workers last week after several warnings and instructions to return to work.

Ngcobo said NUM had engaged all stakeholders, including the municipality, to find a working solution to the problem.

Yesterday, resident engineer at the construction site Ian Jackson said Sanral is the only party able to comment on the matter.

The Witness reported earlier this year that the project, which started in 2011, and was expected to be completed by October this year, cost R152 million more than was originally budgeted.

Justifying the delays, Sanral’s regional spokesperson, Logashri Sewnarain, cited challenges including the site being constrained by the Umgeni River, the community and businesses, all in a close vicinity. She also said relocating people from a nearby house and acquiring land for the works caused further delays.

Yesterday, Sewnarain said Sanral was not involved with the labour issue, and that everything was in the hands of the contractor.

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