News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Tuesday January 23rd 2018

Striking municipal workers get rowdy after march

Siyabonga Kalipa

Carrying spades, picks and sticks, striking muncipal workers marched to the Cape Town Civic Centre on Wednesday. Photo: Siyabonga Kalipa/WCN                               Although the thousands of municipal workers in Cape Town maintained a disciplined march to the Civic Centre on Wednesday (29/07/2009), things got out of hand when they dispersed to go home.

After handing over their demands for a 15% pay hike to mayor Dan Plato’s representative Mike Marsden, groups of strikers overturned dust bins, vandalised traffic signs and opened fire hydrants.

A group of stikers at the Cape Town train station kicked over hawkers stands, sending the traders scattering. However, there was no evidence of looting.

Many of the striking workers from the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) and the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu) could also be seen drinking alcohol during the march, with some of them even passing out while being watched by a heavy police presence.

About 3 000 workers took part in the march on the third day of the nationwide strike for a wage increase, carrying placards that read: ” South African Local Government Association (Salga) must respect workers rights”; “If you want to pay peanuts then employ monkeys”; “Away with managers that are harassing workers”; and the Cape classic, “We are gatvol!”

Samwu provincial chairperson Michael Khumalo said the workers called the march in order to publicly hand over their demand of a 15%, or R2500 pay hike, “whichever is greater”, to Salga.

The unions’ memorandum also demanding that the minimum wage, currently at R3 850, be increased to R5 000.

The memorandum went on to call a stop to “wasteful municipal expenditure” and that the wage gap between managers and workers be narrowed./

Khumalo said the length of the strike would depend on the talks with Salga.

He said workers were also upset about the suspension of a Samwu shop steward for simply “performing the duties of a shop steward”.

Imatu provincial chairperson Mzi Sebezo said: “I am here for the workers, and if Salga doesn’t meet our demands we will continue with the strike.”

Marsden said: “I am pleased to receive your memorandum and I will convey it to the city mayor and city manager.”

However, the crowd demanded that Marsden tell them whether or not the suspended Samwu shop steward would be reinstated, but Marsden said it was a matter that had to be taken to the city manager, as he had not the authority to comment on the matter.

Cosatu pProvincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich, in addressing the crowd, said: “We are here to tell you in no uncertain terms your struggle is ours, an injury to one is an injury to all.”

Khayelitsha refuse collector Bongani Menziwa, who took part in the march said he had been working as “a casual worker” for the municipality for the past six years and did not know when he would ever be put on the permanent payroll/

“Even our working conditions are not suitable. I have a wife and four children who all depend on me,” said Menziwa. – West Cape News

Tags: samwu

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