City workers demand ‘equal pay’

The City was forced to obtain an interdict against the striking workers following reports of threats, intimidation and damage to property. Picture: PT Alarms/Facebook

The City was forced to obtain an interdict against the striking workers following reports of threats, intimidation and damage to property. Picture: PT Alarms/Facebook

Published Mar 1, 2024


Uncollected refuse, roads blocked with municipal vehicles, burning tree branches and rubbish, intimidation of workers and public disturbances marked the second day of protest action by striking eThekwini Municipality employees.

In some areas, including the CBD, major roads were impassable as they were blocked with burning tyres and rubble, causing motorists to be stuck in traffic jams for hours. There were also reports of attacks on motorists on uMngeni Road.

Staff members from different units of the municipality, including Durban Solid Waste (DSW) and Parks, took part in a protest this week demanding to be paid wages similar to their counterparts in other metros.

The striking staff members belong to the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu).

“The Mercury” understands that the lowest-paid worker in this category in eThekwini earns about R188 000 a year, while a worker in a similar post in one of the Gauteng metros earns about R228 000. The union is demanding that the municipality provide the same salaries.

The protest turned violent on Thursday, prompting the City to obtain a court interdict against the striking workers.

Earlier in the week it had issued a notice that refuse collection would be halted as a result of the strike.

“The Mercury” also understands that two workers were arrested on Wednesday after they stormed the City’s water depots, demanding that workers join the strike.

The SAPS had not yet responded to requests for comment.

Acting head of the metro police Sbonelo Mchunu said the protest was widespread and affected the entire municipality.

DA councillor Mzamo Billy said that throughout the day (Thursday), they were getting reports of the ongoing protest which had seen public property being damaged and roads being blocked.

There were also reports of intimidation directed at employees who were not participating in the strike.

“Sadly this has affected the collection of refuse in many areas as there is no collection that is taking place.

This is causing filth and becoming a health hazard to the residents. The DA on Thursday made calls for the City to take decisive action against workers who are embarking on an illegal strike,” he said.

ActionSA councillor Alan Beesley said they’re extremely concerned about the ongoing strike by DSW workers.

“The failure to collect waste is impacting on service delivery levels which are currently at an all-time low.

We urge management and DSW workers to resolve the labour dispute urgently before non-collected waste becomes a health hazard to residents and businesses,” he said.

Samwu leader Siyabonga Dladla said the workers were demanding to be paid what their colleagues were earning in other metros.

“The difference between what the workers in eThekwini earn, compared to those in other metros, is between R3 500 and R4 000 each month. That figure is based on the percentages of the 2022-2023 financial year, it does not include the figure of the 2023-2024 financial year,” said Dladla, implying this could be much higher.

“We showed the employer information on the other metros and how they were able to achieve that salary scale.

And as long as the employer has not presented a counter-offer to this demand, we will be demanding a full adjustment of these wages,” he said.

Dladla said they are still to meet with the leadership of the union to discuss the court interdict.

In a statement, the municipality said it had obtained a court interdict against striking workers, affirming its commitment to the safety and security of law-abiding residents.

“The municipality is extremely concerned about the violence accompanied by intimidation and damage to property caused in the name of striking workers.

“The interdict against striking employees as well as those that are members of the South African Municipal Workers Union, prohibits any unlawful conduct, acts of violence and interference with the City’s activities, services, and operations,” the municipality said in a statement.

The municipality said that the interdict further restrains the striking employees from intimidating, harassing, assaulting, threatening or perpetuating acts of violence against employees, service providers or those accessing offices or workstations.

It said employees were also interdicted from taking part in or instigating any unlawful, disruptive, or riotous behaviour that may result in damage to municipal property, the infringement of rights of others, damage to any service delivery vehicles or hindering, obstructing or blocking municipal vehicles.

To date, the City said, no formal memorandum of demands has been submitted by the union, but it has raised issues around re-categorisation of the municipality from Grade 8 to 10, so that salaries of employees can be on par with those of other metros in the country.

“We remain committed to resolving labour disputes through constructive dialogue and within the framework of the law,” said the statement.

The Mercury