Angry contract workers block street with burning wood

2015-10-27 11:24
The red-brick road around the City Hall.

The red-brick road around the City Hall. (Jonathan Burton)

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Pietermaritzburg - Contract workers employed by the Department of Sport and Recreation blocked Pietermaritz Street with burning wood on Monday, demanding that the department employ them permanently.

Police fired rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.

“Officers arrested 15 people on charges of public violence. They will appear in court tomorrow [Tuesday],” said police spokesperson Mthokozisi Ngobese.

The workers later camped outside the department’s offices, calling for the release of those who were arrested.

They said some among them had been employed by the department on a temporary basis since 2004, but were told that their contracts would not be renewed when they expired at the end of the month.

Department spokesperson Thabo Mofokeng said the department had signed two-year contracts with 1 194 sports assistants who were paid a basic stipend to assist the department in implementing its mandate in local communities in the province.

“In terms of the new labour laws, contract work is limited to three months and thereafter somebody must be employed permanently. The department is contravening the law,” said King Hlela, one of the workers.

“This has also limited us as it is going to be difficult for some of us to get jobs elsewhere because we are already too old. In some places they have age restrictions,” said Hlela.

Simphiwe Zungu, who said he had been working for the department for six years, said they had been “sold a lie”.

“The department said they are going to hire us permanently in the long run. They also promised us bursaries. They also promised to take us for accredited training which did not happen.

“We stuck around because we did not have anything better to do, but we knew that we were being played all along,” said Zungu.

Mofokeng said the department created 32 permanent posts at the Level 5 salary band in 2014/15. These posts were filled from among the contract workers through the application-and-interview process.

He said it was difficult for the department to employ all of the workers permanently.

“The department does not have funding to sustain the employment of the sports assistants and had to divert funds from the allocation for programmes in order to pay the stipends for the last two years,” he said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  labour

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