Striking workers plead for patience

PHOTO: Ian Carbutt Motorists and pedestrians weave through the filth in Church Street last Thursday.
PHOTO: Ian Carbutt Motorists and pedestrians weave through the filth in Church Street last Thursday.

STRIKING Msunduzi temporary workers have appealed to Pietermaritzburg residents for their understanding, patience and support as streets are strewn with the rubbish they threw around and many essential services remain shut down.

Camping in the Doull Road municipal depot, the workers said they do not like seeing “garbage” in the city centre or the leaking pipes that have gone unrepaired for days, but stressed that they had to embark on the strike as their last resort.

“We exhausted every available means to sort this out, but the municipality was not coming to the party. We asked the municipality to meet with us, but they refused,” said a worker who asked not be named, for fear of victimisation.

The workers called on community members to support their strike.

“We love to provide essential services to you [residents], but the treatment we are getting from the municipality is unfair. The community should stand with us and help us,” said the municipal worker.

The workers said the court interdict which was presented to them on Wednesday morning, stating they must be 10 metres away from the depot, had not fazed them.

“If this municipality is so clued up on the Constitution and laws of the country, why would they employ contract workers for more than the three-month period when the laws of the country clearly state that all temporary workers must be hired permanently after working for more than three months?” asked a protesting worker. We are not earning even a quarter of what permanent workers are getting, but we are doing the same thing. This is unacceptable,” another added.

The protesting workers said they previously used to be given a year-long contract, but the municipality changed this recently to just three months.

“The wording was also changed on those contracts. Previously the wording was ‘hired for permanent nature’ which did not make sense at all. I mean if we were ‘hired for permanent nature’, why did the municipality not hire us permanently? “The wording was changed to ‘hired for special projects’. The work that we are doing is not some special project, this is maintenance to the city as we have always been doing,” said another worker who wanted to remain unnamed.

The workers added that their permanent appointments had been stopped by the ANC Moses Mabhida Region. “It is a known fact that the municipality is being run by political heads from the Moses Mabhida Region.

“They promised delegates who went to the ANC provincial conference jobs in the municipality if they vote for their preferred candidates. That is why they want to get rid of us now, because they want to put their comrades in jobs,” alleged one protesting employee.

However, ANC Moses Mabhida regional secretary Mzi Zuma said that decisions on the day-to-day running of the municipality are “made by the municipality’s heads”.

“We have nothing to do with the hiring of municipal workers, especially general workers,” said Zuma.

He said he was not aware of the people who were promised jobs by the region. “If there is somebody who did that, we must indicate that it is wrong. We do not encourage that in the party,” he said. The protesting workers said they will continue to camp at the Doull Road depot until they are hired permanently.

“We were told that the municipality tried to put some workers here to try and work during the night, so we have decided to stay here to make sure that no truck moves out of the depot,” said a striking employee at the Doull Road depot last Thursday.

The camping workers said they are receiving support from some permanent workers.

‘ANC Allies in Samwu are destroying the city’ claims the IFP
OPPOSITION parties weighed in on the ongoing municipal strike taking place in the city saying that they were “absolutely appalled and disgusted” at the devastation left in the wake of the strike. The DA’s Bill Lambert said that as much as the opposition party was also waiting to find out why the permanent placements were put on hold, the strikers were “not justified” in creating such a mess.

“They [the striking municipal workers] are not adhering to the rule of law. They are plunging us into anarchy,” said Lambert. He said municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi should take a strong stance in this matter. “It is not acceptable that the striking workers are creating such devastation in the city. There are proper channels to follow. What is the benefit of trashing the city?” added Lambert.

IFP councillor Dolo Zondi said that the situation was “very unfortunate” for the country and the municipality. He said that the city recently celebrated their clean audit, however days later the residents are suffering the effects of the strike.

“As much as I respect the unions and the workers, we should also respect residents. The residents have a right to live in a clean environment,” said Zondi.

He said that striking workers should realise that the city’s municipal manager, mayor and council were not suffering, but the “people of the city” were feeling the effects. Zondi said the ANC is allied to the South African Municipal Workers’ Union “so in turn the people who are destroying the city are ANC allies”.

“This is the ruling party’s baby, they must deal with this situation. They are fighting with themselves at the expense of residents,” said Zondi.

Questions posed to
Msunduzi Municipality

• Some of the staff have told The Witness that they have been temporary workers for five, seven and even 15 years. Is this true?

• If the above is true, why is the municipality keeping them as temporary for such long periods?

• Are or were there plans to make at least some of the staff permanent? Surely there are placement by-laws regarding this.

• According to the by-laws and/or laws of the country, how long can a municipal worker be employed as temporary?

• We have spoken to the municipal workers today who said that they will be ignoring the court interdict and will not return to work until they are made permanent. What is the city’s stance on this?

• With numerous workers from different departments on strike, what is the city’s plan on cleaning up the streets, picking up rubbish bins from residents’ homes and attending to burst water pipes or electricity issues? Will the city be looking at private sector to assist or will other departments have to assist?

• Hordes of litter and rubbish had been strewn across the streets. The rubbish is still there. Motorists have called in saying they drove to work dodging bags of litter on roads such as Pietermaritz, Berg, West and Church Street. Will the city ask traffic to step in and direct motorists? How will the city streets get clean?

• Is it true that 2 200 people are contract workers, which is around 50% of all staff in the municipality?

Municipality responds

Msunduzi municipal acting spokesperson Nqobile Madonda responded: “The status quo remains. This is still an illegal strike and no agreement has been reached with the strikers.

“We have tried engaging with the private­ contractors to assist in services to the city, however, we were chased away by the strikers.”

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