Striking Pikitup staff members affiliated to Samwu march through the streets of Joburg demanding salary increases. File picture: Independent Media

Johannesburg - Pikitup workers affiliated to the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) laid bare the challenges between them and their employer in Johannesburg on Wednesday, vowing to intensify an illegal strike that has been continuing for four weeks.

More than 4 000 workers embarked on an illegal strike four weeks ago, on March 2, demanding salary increases of between R6 000 and R10 000 a month, and that the managing director of the Johannesburg waste management entity, Amanda Nair, be removed.

On Tuesday, striking Pikitup workers were in full force in Johannesburg CBD emptying rubbish bins on the streets in front of metro police, following their clashes with the police a week ago.

Speaking on SAfm's Forum at 8 radio show, Samwu said Pikitup was negotiating in bad faith and confusing issues on purpose to frustrate the workers.

Samwu's regional deputy secretary Paul Tlhabang told the radio station its members would continue to ignore Pikitup's notices of dismissal.

Read also: Samwu: Pikitup strikers deserve decent pay

“We are dealing here with issues of transformation agenda and employment equity, not bargaining council. What we are saying is that there is an obligation on the employers to comply with Employment Equity Act.

“One of the issues is to progressively address the issue of salary anomalies which Pikitup has failed to do. Instead they are selecting an individual few and adjusting salaries of those who are favourites at the expense of the majority.”

Tlhabang said there were other municipal-owned enterprises that progressed salaries, unlike Pikitup, and the call for R10 000 a month was just to benchmark the salaries.

Matshidiso Mfikoe, City of Joburg's member of the mayoral committee on environment and infrastructure, said Samwu had disrupted the meeting that was scheduled to give a proposal to the striking workers.

“We cannot be talking when people are toyi-toying,” she said.

Mfikoe said the city had crunched the numbers and come up with a proposal for salary increases that it could proceed to implement, but it “wanted to present it to the union first”.

Read also: Strikers ignore Pikitup’s warnings

But, Mfikoe said, this increase would not be up to R10 000.

“There has not been any commitment by the city that we will pay R10 000. That is just the union demand. We are not responsible for salary negotiations. That is done at SA Local Government Association (Salga) because this is not only salaries for Pikitup but for other entities as well,” Mfikoe said.

She dismissed Samwu's demand to suspend Pikitup managing director, Amanda Nair, saying the City could not sanction anyone without following due process.

“We only received Samwu's dossier with allegations against Nair yesterday. We sat with the mayor and looked at each allegation. We will announce the way forward in due course as to whether we will appoint an independent investigator for the new allegations,” she said. Mfikoe said the main issue of conflict was “co-management of the entity [Pikitup] with the union”.

She said last year Pikitup had received a clean audit and made a surplus for the first time since it was started 12 years ago. Pikitup spokesperson Jacky Mashapu agreed with Mfikoe, adding Samwu was disingenuous as it was also part of the negotiation team at Salga.

“We need to create a positive climate of negotiations and workers need to go back to work while their issues are attended to. We also need to ensure that we provide the best service to residents,” Mashapu said.

A Johannesburg resident who called in to the radio show said citizens were being “short-changed” and that Pikitup seemed not to have any contingency plan in place.

Another caller suggested the service be returned to the municipal's control so that residents could forward complaints directly to the city. Pikitup has invited the media to accompany workers on a night shift on Wednesday to understand the work it does.