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Pretoria - Former waste collectors who were dispersed with rubber bullets by metro police on Tuesday claim they have been betrayed by the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) that failed to ensure their permanent integration into the Tshwane municipality.
The workers lost their jobs after the municipality terminated its contract with labour broker Capacity Waste Management, and some of its workers were not absorbed permanently into the municipality.
This occurred after the municipality had entered into an agreement with labour unions to phase out labour brokers in the city.
According to the agreement, thousands of workers would be absorbed into the municipality when the labour brokers were phased out, and would enjoy similar benefits given to other municipal employees. However, hundreds of them are now unemployed, and have blamed both Samwu and the municipality for badly managing the process.
They said on Tuesday they felt betrayed, not only by the council but also by Samwu, which had championed the banning of labour brokers in municipalities as a Cosatu affiliate.
The protesters have caused havoc around the city for the past two days, emptying rubbish bins in streets and embarking on an illegal march in the city centre.
Tshwane metro police on Tuesday dispersed them with rubber bullets after they threatened to storm the municipal headquarters at Isivuno Building, at the intersection of Lillian Ngoyi and Madiba streets, one of the busiest in the city centre.
Louis Ndlovu, one of the protesters who took to the streets on Tuesday, said they had believed the phasing out of labour brokers would result in them getting better jobs with the municipality, including medical aid and housing subsidies.
Ndlovu said this was the reason they had supported all the Samwu and Cosatu marches calling for the banning of labour brokers.
“We lost our jobs with no package. There are many of us who have been affected, because we were stationed at depots around the city.
“Most of us are breadwinners in our homes and now there is no income at all. The union has failed to represent us, and we cannot afford expensive lawyers, so the only option we have is to protest until the municipality listens to us and integrates us into the permanent jobs that some other people got.
“We are disappointed that they are claiming that we were volunteers when some of us have worked for Capacity for more than two years,” said Ndlovu.
The workers now stood on their own and had formed their own executive committee, which was organising marches and leading the protest.
Committee member Elmond Magedi said on Tuesday they were not keen to apply for a permit to march from the same municipality which had rendered them jobless and was opposed to what they were fighting for.
“How can we ask for permission to march from a municipality that we are marching against? But that is besides the point. What we are saying is that people must brace themselves for a rolling spate of protests from this entire week.
“It is better now, because people know that the mayor has been lying about how people were absorbed into the municipality,” said Magedi.
Samwu Tshwane chairman Veli Kubheka said the workers had complained to mother body Cosatu, and Samwu was waiting for the matter to be referred back to it.
But he denied Samwu had betrayed the workers.
“We were the ones protesting in February for those workers to be reinstated and absorbed into the municipality. Cosatu was also here in December making the same demand but the municipality failed to engage us.
“Our door is always open for them (the workers) to come to us, but we were disappointed when they went straight to the mother body, saying they did not want to engage with Samwu.
“They have even started talking to other unions, who have only made false promises to them,” said Kubheka. - Pretoria News