Workers, union at war

2010-07-19 00:00

TENSIONS are at an all-time high among workers in the beleaguered Msunduzi Municipality with news that union members have recalled their leaders and are calling for the removal of their union representatives.

The Witness has been reliably informed that votes of no confidence have been passed against three local office bearers of the SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu).

The union’s regional president Lucky Zimu, his deputy Sakhile Ngcobo and secretary Themba Lyons were booted out as leaders last Monday because workers were not happy with the way they have been representing them.

The Witness has learnt that workers also passed a vote of no confidence against all shop stewards at a meeting last Wednesday, and the matter is now being handled by the union’s provincial body in consultation with its national body. The workers have accused the local office bearers of holding secret meetings with the intervention team and of reaching agreements with the task team behind their backs.

Further allegations are that certain shop stewards are serving the interests of former influential Msunduzi councillors who were booted out a few months ago.

Shop stewards, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the recalled councillors were booted out after having infiltrated the union, coercing certain members to side with them on issues regarding the municipality.

The sources maintained that some councillors who are still serving on the council benefited from a divided union and from certain shop stewards.

In return, said the sources, these union members were given leeway to dodge the council’s employment processes and were able to bring in friends, girlfriends, family members and children to work permanently at the municipality.

According to sources, these dubious job opportunities were created in the community services division.

Some union representatives are apparently being pestered by residents who traded sexual favours with them on the basis that they were promised municipal jobs. Since the intervention team took over, those promises are proving difficult to fulfil.

The souring of relations between the union and its members allegedly came to a head a few weeks ago, when they accused the local office- bearers of meeting with the intervention team and agreeing to the postponement of their annual salary and wage agreement without informing them.

The representatives then allegedly did an about-turn, but news of their initial support had already spread and workers were furious.

Workers have threatened to take to the streets should they not receive their increases this month, despite being told that the municipality cannot afford them as yet.

The frosty relationship between the union and its members was even discussed at a council executive committee meeting last month, when senior councillors said they will have a problem on their hands if workers are dissatisfied with their representatives.

The local office bearers admitted that they were booted out because of allegations that they were making agreements with the intervention team without the buy-in of the workers.

Lyons said: “I know I’m being targeted.” He said he is “being used as a scapegoat” by those who oppose the intervention team’s investigations.

He said this is not the first time he has been accused of having cosy relations with councillors and management, but he is confident that the allegations will once again prove to be false.

Said Lyons: “The union will decide what will happen next. If it happens that I’m being moved, it will be as an office bearer and not as a shop steward.”

The other office bearers declined to comment, saying an election expected to take place next Monday will decide whether they are retained.

Provincial Samwu secretary Jaycee Ncanana said the union is aware of the allegations of misrepresentation, and will investigate. He said the union has to step in if workers are unhappy with those who have been elected to represent them, but they will act in accordance with the union’s constitution.



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