Chaos as City workers strike over pay

Public Employment Programme employees marched from Gugu Dlamini Park to the Durban City Hall yesterday. Picture: Tumi Pakkies Independent Newspapers

Public Employment Programme employees marched from Gugu Dlamini Park to the Durban City Hall yesterday. Picture: Tumi Pakkies Independent Newspapers

Published Nov 16, 2023


Durban — Chaos erupted in Durban central on Wednesday as more than 500 eThekwini Municipality employees striking for better salaries clashed with the City’s official who was meant to address them outside the Durban City Hall.

The Durban Solid Waste, Electricity and Parks Unit, and Public Employment Programme (PEP) employees, who brought the City centre to a standstill during the protest, chased away a senior official in the Mayoral Parlour in eThekwini.

Empty bottles flew from the protesters, who booed the official during his address outside the Durban City Hall.

Motorists driving on Pixley kaSeme were held up in dense traffic which took two hours to clear as the employees used municipal trucks to block the traffic and scattered rubbish on the street.

eThekwini Municipality workers protested as they complained about salaries. Picture: Sibonelo Ngcobo Independent Newspapers

A member from the Transformative Riverine Management Programme, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being victimised, said the reason for their participation in the march was to fight for their jobs.

“We want our jobs back. We are fighting for our jobs as we were suspended. We are fighting for money that is owed to us as some of us haven’t been paid in three months. Two weeks ago, we arrived here at the Hall and they said we should come back again and again. Due to our lack of work and earnings, we don’t have the funds and means to keep returning. We are jobless, so where must we get money from?” said the employee.

SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) regional secretary Xolani Dube said the purpose of Wednesday’s meeting with the municipal officials was to address issues needing attention.

“We are grieving to the municipality and need the mayor to pay attention to our demands. The union is also worried about the increase in cases of the assassination of officials who are murdered while they are on duty. We also need the municipality to review the compensation of the dissatisfied employees,” said Dube.

The meeting between Samwu members and the municipality is set to continue today (Thursday).

ETHEKWINI employees protesting outside the Durban City Hall I SIBONELO NGCOBO

In a statement issued by eThekwini Municipality during the strike, the City warned its employees against unauthorised strikes.

“The ‘no work, no pay and no benefits’ principle will apply for employees who participate in the unauthorised protest action. The grievances that the workers have must be resolved at the bargaining council as negotiations are currently under way in relation to the conditions of service and payment of performance bonuses.

“We call for effective intervention and communication by all parties to avoid the risk of undermining the collective bargaining processes set up to create industrial peace and resolve all disputes. Any unlawful behaviour will invite law enforcement agencies to step in and deal with lawlessness,” stated the City.

In a statement, DA eThekwini caucus leader councillor Thabani Mthethwa said the PEP strike was a result of ignoring DA warnings.

“Earlier this year the DA in eThekwini raised the alarm over the imminent end of the PEP programme, despite the city downplaying this and its effects by saying the programme would run till June 2024 with no hiccups. However, not long after, the programme came to an abrupt end and plunged thousands of workers into unemployment and poverty.”

Mthethwa said the DA in eThekwini had warned that the City’s failure to make good on the promise of the duration of employment for these thousands of individuals would have dire and undesirable consequences.

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