Two marches, by the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) and temporary workers employed under the Public Employment Programme (PEP), to the Durban City Hall brought parts of the city to a standstill on Wednesday.
The first march was by PEP workers who have lost their jobs because of funding shortfalls. There is, however, a possibility of this being reconsidered by the City as money has become available.
Afterwards, Samwu members took to the streets as they said the City had failed to address their concerns raised during a march a few months ago.
The marches led to traffic gridlocks across the city and pictures started circulating of roads in and around the city centre blocked with municipal vehicles, including trucks.
The Samwu march triggered reaction from City Hall which fired off a warning against any form of anarchy, saying the march had been originally billed as a workers’ meeting that was supposed to take place between 8 and 10am.
It said about 500 members of the city’s 25 000-strong workforce had taken part in the “unauthorised” march.
Samwu members marched amid concerns that the City had not responded adequately to concerns the members had raised a few months ago.
The concerns were wide ranging, from the killing of, and attacks on, staff to the payment of bonuses.
“We have not ‘blocked’ any roads, the workers are marching to City Hall. This was a recognised meeting to discuss the response that the City had sent us after our earlier march.
“When we resolved that the response was inadequate, we decided to march to City Hall. The workers are not blocking any road with their vehicles, they are marching slowly, some in their municipal vehicles, and as such we do not expect that they will face any sanctions,” said a source.
In its petition seen by The Mercury, Samwu demanded that the City urgently acts and provides security to the workplace in order to protect all employees against hijackings and senseless killings.
In its signed response, the City had said: “The security management unit has processes in place to afford close protection to officials under threat,” adding that this process was guided by the ministerial handbook and other legal processes.
However, Samwu members viewed this as an inadequate response, pointing to the murder of Emmanuel Ntuli, who had been under protection for months but was gunned down outside his home a few days ago.
Municipal spokesperson Gugu Sisilana said the grievances workers have must be resolved at the Bargaining Council.
She said negotiations were currently under way in relation to the conditions of service and payment of performance bonuses.
The march by Samwu comes as councillors have warned that the killing of staff had the capacity to undermine its ability to service the community.
During an executive committee meeting on Tuesday, ANC councillor Nkosenhle Madlala said the City must act.
“We must act or there is a risk that there is going to be a flight of workers away from that unit. Workers could leave as they fear they could be killed or they could leave the municipality.”
Speaking on the march by PEP staff, DA councillor Thabani Mthethwa said they had warned the City about this very risk.
“The DA in eThekwini had warned that the City’s failure to make good on the promise of duration of employment for these thousands of individuals would have dire and undesirable consequences.”
Asked about the PEP march, Sisilana said: “PEP employees were at City Hall in the morning long before the unauthorised strike took place. They went to City Hall to enquire regarding outstanding payments as payments are based on verification of work done against submission of timesheets. This has been finalised and payments will be paid on November 24.”