The Newcastle Municipality has fired 223 employees following their protest against the non-payment of overtime early last month. File photo: ANA/Doctor Ngcobo
Durban - The Newcastle Municipality has fired 223 employees following their protest against the non-payment of overtime early last month.

The mayor was struck in the face during the protest.

On Friday, the municipality took the decision to fire those believed to have been involved following internal disciplinary hearings - and the number of casualties could increase.

However, the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) yesterday said it would start the legal process to fight for its members. Provincial secretary Jaycee Ncanana said they were obliged to act legally as the municipality had fired their members “legally”.

“We received the news and we expected this because all the signs were there. They permitted our members to work overtime and only told them on payday that there was no money to pay them. When our members demanded answers, they were suspended, and then fired. We are not taking this lying down; we will fight to the bitter end, but we have to do it within the labour regulations. The mayor has been bragging about this high number of employees who were pushed out of their jobs,” Ncanana said.

Early last month general workers, including security, fire department officers, traffic personnel and six Samwu shop stewards were suspended on full pay after an altercation that resulted in Mayor Ntuthuko Mahlaba being struck in the face with a brick.

The Daily News reported at the time that workers received suspension notices on their cellphones following the incident. The city cited financial constraints for the non-payment, but the union questioned how the municipality could source private security services instead of paying the overtime due to its employees.

Ncanana questioned how the workers could have been permitted to work overtime when there were professionals dealing with the municipal finances who could have reported its state to those in charge to avoid this situation.

EFF Amajuba chairperson Sbusiso Sizani said the decision to fire the workers was taken on Friday.

“This was a unilateral decision by the ANC councillors. Ever since this mayor took over, everything is falling apart. He is riding this municipality roughshod. He is selfish, arrogant and he doesn’t care about the next person. Anyone who challenges him gets purged. These workers were protesting for what is rightfully theirs, so that should not result in them losing their jobs,” Sizani said.

DA councillor Bessie Cronje said that overtime had been abused at the municipality over the years.

“How many families will suffer now because of the lack of empathy? This issue has been handled badly,” Cronje said.

Municipal spokesperson Dr Dumisani Thabethe said the matter was handled by municipal manager Muzi Mayisela, who told the Daily News he was driving and would call back once he got to his destination. However, he failed to return the call and his phone was turned off when called again. He did not respond to voice messages. The mayor could not be reached for comment.

Daily News