‘Modern day slavery’ in municipalities - union

2016-02-18 06:00
PHOTO: NQOBILE MTOLO The South African Municipal Workers Union members (red T-shirts) outside the KZN Legislature building after marching against the exploitation of contract workers in the local municipalities.

PHOTO: NQOBILE MTOLO The South African Municipal Workers Union members (red T-shirts) outside the KZN Legislature building after marching against the exploitation of contract workers in the local municipalities.

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SOUTH African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) members marched to the Legislature along Langalibalele Street and submitted a list of grievances to the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) about the exploitation of workers in local government in the Pietermaritzburg region.

Samwu was joined by the South African Communist Party (SACP), who want municipalities to permanently employ contract workers and improve working conditions. The memorandum states that some workers get paid R800 a month for performing work worth R6 000 a month, protective clothing is not issued on time and there is no proper promotions policy in place. Samwu terms this “modern day slavery”.

The contract workers are part of the government’s expanded public works programme (EPWP) aimed at providing income relief for the unemployed. The programme was started in 2004 with goals of sustainable growth and economic development. The affected municipalities included in the memorandum are uMshwathi, uMngeni, Mpofana, Impendle, Mkhambathini, Richmond, uMgungundlovu, uMvoti and KwaSani.

Addressing marchers outside the Legislature, SACP’s Skhumbuzo Mdlalose said municipal managers should not allow their personal lives to interfere with the hiring of contract workers.

“As the communist party we are starting to get tired of municipalities that do not want to listen to what the government is saying about contract workers. If their work is permanent, the contract workers must be permanent.

“People cannot be contract workers for 20 years. Contract workers don’t even have pension fund or medical aid benefits. Contract workers cannot plan their lives beyond their six-month contracts.

“Municipal managers should not let their anger towards their spouses affect the hiring processes and the permanent hiring of contract workers. We don’t want to know what goes on in their private lives,” said Mdlalose.

Samwu’s national treasurer Portia Lindi said: “We elected these people to be placed in the senior positions and in return they are only feeding themselves. We are not stupid. What we want is very simple - workers should not be exploited.

“The municipalities have adopted a new system of hiring interns to do the work because they do not want to advertise posts and hire people on a permanent basis.

“Municipalities have adopted the habit of hiring interns so that they do more work for a fraction of the remuneration. After three months they get fresh interns or they hire their friends.

“Some union shop stewards are being victimised for addressing such issues with management.

“The municipalities should respond to us otherwise this town will come to a standstill,” said Lindi.


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