TWO vehicles belonging to a private construction company were torched in Happy Valley near Blackheath, allegedly by construction workers on a wage strike yesterday.
“Allegedly construction site workers participated in strike action and set the vehicles alight. The matter is being investigated,” said police spokesman Andre Traut. There were no injuries or arrests.
National Union of Mineworkers provincial secretary Happiness Holiday said a strike by its members in civil engineering had entered its second week. The union had held a report back meeting in Khayelitsha at 10am, he said, and by noon workers had left the meeting unhappy.
“I spoke to our co-ordinator in Mfuleni and he said that after the report back they went to Blackheath to close some sites. They confirmed a truck was burned,” Holiday said.
About the union taking responsibility for its members’ behaviour, he said: “We will have to deal with that once we’ve spoken to our lawyers and of course we’ll attempt to defend ourselves. We condemn violence and try to explain this our members.”
Danie Lotter, a site supervisor for Citrine Construction, said 20 workers had been doing electrical installations at a housing development site in Happy Valley when a group of protesters passed through the area. “The company’s truck and bakkie were set alight. Our workers were quite shocked,” he said.
Holiday said the union had demanded the minimum salary be increased to R5 550 from R4 000 and a 10 percent increase for workers who currently earned R5 500 or more. The employers had offered an 8 percent increase, he said.
Lotter said his company had worked in Happy Valley since December and installed overhead power lines for Eskom.
“We will have to assess the situation (today) to see if it is safe to return to site and to continue the work here.”
Citrine Construction chief executive Nazeem Price said: “I’m very disappointed this has happened. That project is part of BNG (Breaking New Ground). Our guys did not see this thing coming. We’ll file a complaint with the police.”
BNG is a government initiative for low-cost housing.
Metro Police deputy chief Yolanda Faro said several marches yesterday involved construction workers.
In Khayelitsha, 200 workers marched along Mew Way yesterday morning and hours later 50 workers brandishing sticks marched in Rotterdam Road in Blue Downs.
Faro said vehicles were stoned when 200 workers protested at the Borcherds Quarry and Eislieben Road intersection in Nyanga late yesterday afternoon.