Census workers in Durban downed tools on Monday, complaining they were paid less than their counterparts in other provinces.

About 100 workers picketed outside the Census offices in Durban's Samora Machel Street, threatening to withhold filled-out questionnaires if their demands were not met.

Monday was the last day of the 21-day enumeration phase which included the distribution of around 20 million questionnaires.

Statistician general Pali Lehohla sent senior official Risenga Maluleke on Monday to negotiate with the striking workers.

“We have sent Maluleke to mediate. They are in a meeting as we speak,” said Census spokesman Sivuyile Mangxamba.

The striking workers were supposed to submit filled questionnaires on Monday evening.

The striking workers said they learnt in the media that they were underpaid.

“Our contracts stipulates that we will be paid R5000 but last week we learned that census field workers in Johannesburg were getting paid R10,000 and workers in Pietermaritzburg were being paid R7500,” said a striker who did not want to be named.

The strikers claimed they were stationed in far away areas and had been forced to fork out more for transport.

“We were also not compensated for the airtime we used for work as promised,” the worker said.

Lehohla said earlier on Monday that payment of census field workers would begin on November 10, and was expected to cost a total of R700 million.

Enumerators would receive a flat fee of R5000 and their supervisors R7000, he told reporters in Pretoria. - Sapa