Tit-for-tat allegations during uThukela municipal strike

2016-07-05 17:35

Durban - Allegations flew between protesting uThukela District municipal workers and the mayor during a strike in Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal, on Tuesday.

"They are interfering with the service of the people. At waterworks, they closed the valves," said Mayor Dudu Mazibuko.

However Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu) branch chairperson Ntokozo Buthelezi denied the claim, saying that while the workers left operations to protest, they had not interfered with service delivery.

"If there is a breakdown of pipes, it is because the infrastructure is aging... Our protest was peaceful. We never touched any of the services."

Mazibuko said that supervisors and councillors had subsequently attended to the water supply issues.

On Tuesday, municipal members of Imatu embarked on a strike related to various labour, organisational and safety issues.

Right to protest

While Buthelezi placed the number of strikers at about 200, Mazibuko said there had only been around 50 protesters.

Similarly, while Buthelezi said Imatu was the majority union, Mazibuko said this position was in fact held by the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu).

Mazibuko said that workers had the right to protest, but that "they cannot interfere with people who want to be at work or with regard to the services to the community".

She also said that the strikers had been "violent" when requesting the municipal manager to come out and receive their memorandum: "They were insulting and doing all those things."

However, Buthelezi said that the manager was "hiding" from them.

"He is there in the office, but he is hiding; he didn't want to come to us."

Nepotism

The memorandum was eventually received by another manager.

Buthelezi said that one of the grievances of the Imatu members was nepotism.

However, Mazibuko retorted that the union had previously been invited to bring specific cases of alleged nepotism to management's attention, but that they had not done so.

She also said that a lot of Imatu members who had been fired in the past "were found to be corrupt".

While Buthelezi said that the union was unhappy with the approval process of certain organisational restructuring that had "bypassed labour", Mazibuko said the issue was always handled at council level.

She also said that a lot of the grievances listed in the memorandum had already been dealt with. At one point, she said, the provincial structures of Imatu had even met with the municipality.

Mazibuko suggested that new leadership in the union had led to the new protests.

Strike suspended

Adding to the list of complaints, Buthelezi said there were safety concerns regarding the building in which the municipality operated.

"The structure is cracking; they have put in the lift without following [procedure]; the staircases are too steep [leading to] some people getting injured."

Mazibuko said independent inspectors were dealing with the issue.

Nevertheless, going forward, municipal management was still prepared to talk to the protesters, Mazibuko said..

"We will continue engaging them… We take it very seriously that the workers' rights and welfare are addressed."

Buthelezi said that after handing in their memorandum on Tuesday, the protesters would then suspend their strike for the seven days for management to respond to their grievances.

"If their response is not happy, then we will [strike] again."

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