Johannesburg - Joburg residents hoping for an end to the ongoing strike by Pikitup employees may have to wait a while longer.
On Tuesday, union leaders vowed to continue with their crippling, unprotected strike action.
This is in spite of threats by the City of Joburg to fire the employees.
“If these employees are fired, Pikitup must look for another place for the new employees to work because we won’t allow them to work in Joburg,” said Emmanuel Koadibane, a shop steward for the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu).
He was speaking to The Star as he and other union leaders led hundreds of striking employees in a protest march in the Joburg CBD ahead of the start of their disciplinary hearings.
The marchers sang and carried signs, with some reading “Away with corruption and the slavery system”.
Koadibane said the workers would return to work only if their demands were met.
They are demanding salary increases of between R6 000 and R10 000 and that Pikitup managing director Amanda Nair be fired.
This came as the City of Joburg briefed the media on its stance on the strike. It has since emerged that new allegations against Nair are currently being investigated by both the City of Joburg’s risk and assurance department and by external investigators.
The city’s member of the mayoral committee for environment and infrastructure, Matshidiso Mfikoe, reiterated that Nair had been cleared of all allegations last year after being on suspension for 11 months.
She said there was no reason for her to be removed from office at this time.
“She was cleared of allegations of tender fraud and of stealing cellphones. All charges were dropped. However, the unions want these matters reinvestigated,” Mfikoe said.
“The unions are also calling for an investigation into individual salary disparity within Pikitup, nepotism and the hiring of Indians only to key positions, which we are doing,” she added.
Joburg mayor Parks Tau said the “disruptive, illegal work stoppage” had to stop.
“This status quo can no longer be tolerated and the city is taking serious action to ensure this,” he added.
This, he said, was being done through the establishment of a joint operations centre, among others. The centre will identify and prioritise hotspots for urgent attention. It is also responsible for the co-ordination of security and tactical response in vulnerable areas, and to manage queries and mobilise resources in collaboration with the city’s other entities and the private sector through a 24-hour number: 011 286 6009. It will also co-ordinate SAPS, Joburg metro police department and private security.
Tau said that while it was unfortunate that the city had initiated disciplinary action against the striking workers, this had to be to done in order to speedily restore services to residents.
“These are workers who are bearing the brunt of the no-work, no-pay policy for the unprotected industrial action. Two interdicts were issued against Samwu in a bid to get striking workers to return to work, but these were not adhered to,” he said.
As a result, pre-dismissal warnings were issued to workers on the same day that Samwu’s national office called on strikers to return to work. However, these too were ignored, forcing the city’s hand, he said. The workers are being charged with gross misconduct for participating in unprotected strikes on December 18 and 19, February 5 and 6, and March 9 and 10.
Tau said 19 workers had been arrested for attempted murder and public violence since the current strike began, but 11 were released due to lack of evidence. The remaining workers were released on R500 bail.