Johannesburg - It is appalling that 331 striking workers at the privately run Mangaung prison, outside Bloemfontein, have been sacked, the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) said on Monday.
The firing of the workers, members of the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru), had led to a spate of stabbings at the prison since mid-September, the labour union federation said in a statement.
“(Last) week the situation ended in a hostage drama where a senior female warden was taken hostage by four inmates,” Cosatu said.
The workers were dismissed on September 18 by G4S Africa, the company that runs the prison, after they embarked on an illegal strike on September 11.
On Wednesday, four inmates held a G4S official hostage for 13 hours at the prison.
She was released when the prisoners were overpowered by a special police task force.
Cosatu was even more “astounded” that government had decided to privatise the prison.
“It ought to be a national scandal that private companies are being handed huge amounts of taxpayers' money to profit from this rehabilitation process.”
It was even worse that companies sacked workers for raising issues regarding the conditions they worked under.
The company's links with Israel was also questioned, with Cosatu suggesting its slogan “Securing Your World” in the Israeli context referred to “exploitation, repression, occupation and racism”.
Cosatu called on government to cut ties with the company and for the correctional services department to reinstate the dismissed workers immediately.
G4S was awarded a 25-year contract to run the Mangaung Correctional Centre on behalf of the department of correctional services in 2000. - Sapa