SWEEPING the streets of Samora Machel township in Philippi is a job City of Cape Town employee Iris Dywili “hates”.
Now 52-years-old, she’s been doing it for 17 years, and the dust kicked up from sweeping makes her asthma worse. She also suffers from arthritis.
“I stand for eight hours a day sweeping the streets. I’m always coughing because of the dust. I don’t like this work because I’m picking up sicknesses. I’m sick now after 17 years of doing this,” she says.
Despite the 17 years of hard work, Iris only takes home R2000 a month after medical aid, pension fund and UIF is deducted from her gross monthly salary of R4 300.
The R2 000 she takes home does not cover her monthly expenses and she can barely make ends meet. Iris is a single mother of three sons, aged 24, 21 and 8 and is the only employed person in her family. She supports her unemployed sister, cousin and mother. She also has to support her youngest son and pays R500 per month toward her 21-year-old son’s fees for his studies at the University of the Western Cape
She said she’s tried to apply for a Child Support Grant for her eight-year-old son but she does not qualify because she is a city employee.
Her cousin, mother and sister receive R250 each from her each month and her youngest son’s school fees are R100 per term, or roughly R30 per month.
She also pays R900 a month for the three-bedroom RDP house in Delft, inclusive of water and electricity, which she shares with her three sons and father.
As a result, she is R30 000 in debt.
In order to help make ends meet, her father gives his R1000 monthly pension to her to buy food. She is also forced to buy on account if she needs to buy clothing and household goods.
The approximately R700 extra she would be able to take home should the 18% salary increase the South African Municipal Workers Union is demanding would make a huge difference in her life.
Asked what she thought of Sawmu members trashing city streets and looting traders’ stalls, she said she never participated in such action but workers do it because they are angry and frustrated and it’s the only way to get employers to listen and act quickly.
“It’s the anger and frustration of the workers. They do this so the employer can answer quickly. Six percent (currently offered by the South African Local Government Association) can do nothing. This is an insult. They (employer) don’t care. They don’t see the people suffering,” she said.
“If I get the 18 percent increase, it will be an achievement for me, it will be much better.” – Fadela Slamdien