uMngeni council workers to embark on legal strike

2014-06-10 00:00

TWO weeks after violent illegal protests erupted in uMngeni Municipality, Howick will be caught up in further labour unrest today.

But this time their industrial action is legal.

Workers have successfully applied to hold a protest march from the Howick Falls to the municipal offices this morning. Their gripe? The manner in which the illegal strike of two weeks ago was handled, and that their grievances are yet to be addressed.

The municipality had obtained a court interdict to end the illegal industrial action.

This was after workers went on wrecking spree with an attempt to burn down municipal offices and the town’s historic library. The council chamber was also trashed and the broken window panes still stand as testimony of the rampage.

That strike was prompted by workers’ demands that their wages be moved to the top notch of their grade — the same as was given to seven senior managers at the municipality, as well as the matter of a 14th cheque.

Today’s legal march has been organised by labour federation, Cosatu’s local executive committee, said the organisation’s provincial vice chairperson John Dlamini.

According to Dlamini, Cosatu recognised that there was instability at uMngeni and saw this as indicative of broader problems. He said the labour federation condemned the manner in which the industrial action by the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) was handled. “Instead of engaging with the workers to resolve the challenges they went to court and obtained an interdict,” he said.

Dlamini said the marchers will be handing over a memorandum to the municipality as well as the Department of Co-operative Governance on several issues including the breakdown in labour relations; the lack of skills development within the municipality; as well as their grievance that they want the same top wage benefit as was given to senior managers.

uMngeni municipal spokesperson Thando Mgaga confirmed that permission had been granted for the march. He said the management had put contingency measures in place to ensure minimum disruption to municipal services, such as refuse collection, and apologised to residents for the inconvenience caused.

“The municipality is doing its best to speedily resolve the matter with the assistance of the provincial Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs,” Mgaga said.

He added that a task team had also been set up that included the leadership of Samwu at the municipality.

Mgaga was asked if the municipality had tallied up the cost of the illegal strike and whether any workers had been brought to book for the damages.

He said the municipality had asked the police to bring those responsible to book.

Police spokesperson Captain Lolly Moodley confirmed that investigations into the attempted arson and damage to property were still being investigated and no arrests had yet been made.

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