Labour disputes delay construction of R164m Sarah Baartman Centre

Construction of the Sarah Baartman Remembrance Centre in Hankey. On the left is the koppie where Saartjie Baartman is buried. (GroundUp)
Construction of the Sarah Baartman Remembrance Centre in Hankey. On the left is the koppie where Saartjie Baartman is buried. (GroundUp)

Eastern Cape – Construction of the R164m Sarah Baartman Remembrance Centre in Hankey, Eastern Cape has been delayed by labour disputes and is several months behind schedule, GroundUp reports.

Construction started in August 2014 and was expected to be completed in two years. A department of arts and culture legacy project, the centre had a budgeted cost of R164m and was expected to create nearly 1 000 skilled and semi-skilled jobs during construction, and 134 permanent jobs.

The project was to breathe new life into the little towns of Hankey and Patensie, where the main form of employment is work on citrus farms.

Occupying more than four hectares of land in Baartman’s home town of Hankey, near the site where she has been buried, the centre is to include a museum, archives, a garden, shops, an auditorium, classrooms and parking. None of these have been completed.

The project has been plagued by work stoppages. Workers complain they are being underpaid and paid late. They said they should fall under civil construction and not general construction and earn R250 a day instead of R150 to R180. They argued they had been building roads at the site.

Numerous labour disputes

One worker who did not want to be named said others had been dismissed after protesting. He said 15 workers had taken the company to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and got their jobs back.

Another worker complained that employees from Zimbabwe and Malawi were paid more than South Africans and that workers from Limpopo also earned more than locals.

Derrick Jaffon, chief liaison officer of Lubbe Construction, said the project would now be completed in February next year.

He said 150 people were employed on the site.

"We can finish the project next year around February, if we work without labour stoppages. The last two years were a challenge because we had numerous labour disputes. This time I hope we will undergo constructive discussions with the union and the workers. "

Some of the workers are members of the Association of  Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu). Amcu shop stewards contacted by GroundUp did not want to comment on the labour disputes before engaging with the company.

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