Billing staff on strike

2019-02-21 15:41

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The Msunduzi municipal billing department downed tools on Wednesday in protest over pay, working conditions and job descriptions among other complaints. 

Finance and revenue staff at the A.S. Chetty building in Church Street gathered in small groups outside the entrance of the building and in the foyer, chatting and laughing with one another as they refused to continue working.

A staff member who asked not to be named said they stopped working on Wednesday morning and were waiting to speak with either the municipal chief financial officer or the acting municipal manager about their grievances.

He said they had been told that the municipal manager was in a meeting, adding that the finance department did not feel they would be able to speak to management yesterday.

“These issues we are having are not new,” he said.

“They have been ongoing since 2016. We have been complaining about them since then.

“We want our job descriptions reviewed because at the moment everyone has the same job description with the same pay, but we are all doing different work.

“The municipality had said to us a while ago that they were in the process of reviewing it but nothing has happened, we haven’t heard any news on it.”

Another visibly upset staff member, who also asked not to be named, said their department has been waiting years for their issues to be addressed.

“We are protesting peacefully. You can see we are just standing here talking to each other, but the refuse department had a strike where they burned tyres and their issues are now in the process of being resolved. What about us?” she said.

Staff also complained to The Witness that there were plenty of “acting” positions that were supposed to be rotated every six months, but instead the same people were staying in the acting posts for years.

“Another issue is the new finance and revenue system that we have,” said the staff member who had complained about job descriptions.

“The statements are incorrect, they are not [issued] on time. When was the last time you received a bill for water and lights? It’s been months hasn’t it?

“We are trying our best under these conditions but we are in the firing line of the public so we get abused by the public for a system we have no control over. It should be management that the people fight with,” he said.

The man added that the office working conditions were “appalling and a safety hazard”.

“In one office where about 20 people work in close proximity, there are seven air-conditioners but none of them work.

“We have had to buy our own fans. We are also struggling with water damage to our ceilings, walls and carpets.

“Our kitchen area is disgusting. It is a little space blocked off by board from the rest of the office. Nobody wants to eat there.”

Another protester said she had often been stuck as the only person working the counters and printing out hundreds of statements “for the whole of Pietermaritzburg”.

No response had been received from Msunduzi about the matter by late on Wednesday.

Residents left in the dark

Residents who were disconnected on Wednesday were left in limbo because of the strike.

A Woodlands resident, Alphonso Jasson, said he arrived home from work to discover he had been disconnected.

Msunduzi had left a bill for about R1 400 — plus a disconnection fee of R474 — but Jasson said he had paid R1 800 toward his bill.

“I called the municipality and was told they are on strike, so no one can help me. This is not on.

“Last week our refuse wasn’t collected and now this,” he said.

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