Johannesburg - It’s going to be a stinky Christmas for Joburg residents as striking Pikitup workers vow to keep piling the streets with more rubbish if their demands aren’t met.
The SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) is demanding a R10 000 basic salary for Pikitup workers and wants the axe to fall on the company’s managing director Amanda Nair, whom it accuses of corrupt practices and nepotism.
Samwu national spokesman Papikie Mohale said the union had sent a letter to Nair requesting a meeting but she had refused.
Pikitup spokesman Jacky Mashapu, however, claimed it had never received any formal communication from the union and this week obtained a court interdict preventing workers from continuing with their “unprotected strike”.
Mohale said members were prepared to continue striking until Christmas.
But Mashapu warned if the workers did not comply with the court order, due process would unfold in terms of the Labour Relations Act.
Meanwhile, the company was forced to employ casual workers this week to clean the city but a trashed Joburg centre and Braamfontein still looked a mess last night.
Mohale has lashed out at the company’s decision to hire the casuals as “this is not in line with the Labour Relations Act”.
He said Pikitup employs people for three months and keeps extending their contracts but doesn’t give them permanent jobs.
“The same is happening with [email protected] (the City’s job creation initiative). (It) replaces workers and offers them no benefits like medical aid, provident funds and, in some cases, UIF.”
He said the union intended to disrupt the casual workers from carrying out their duties.
“The City of Joburg should brace itself for a dirty Christmas if our members’ grievances are not met,” he said.
“Since garbage bins are Pikitup employees’ tools of trade, what they do with the bins when they strike is up to them,” Mohale told Talk Radio 702.
Pikitup workers are the most poorly paid of all Joburg’s municipal entities, and salary inequality is a concern for all members, he said.
Salaries of Pikitup staff should be evaluated and be on the same scale of employees of other entities such as City Power, Joburg Water and City Parks, said Mohale.
“A general worker at Pikitup is paid R6 000 and all other entities’ salaries are R10 000. We are trying to bridge the payment gap.”
Mashapu said the conditions of the contracts for the casual workers, which areas they will work in and Pikitup’s plan of action to clean up Joburg streets by Christmas will be discussed at a briefing session tomorrow. The strike hit all 11 Pikitup depots. Mashapu said Pikitup is “working tirelessly to ensure that services are restored as soon as possible”.
He added that management remains open to address concerns of staff and organised labour, “but for that to happen, workers must first go back to work, and are encouraged to make use of the established process for engagement”.
He said Pikitup will institute the principle of no work, no pay and will lock out employees participating in the illegal strike.
The week-long strike saw at least nine people injured when police tried to stop protesters from storming the Pikitup head office in Braamfontein. The protesters were armed with sticks and marched in the Joburg CBD, trashing the streets as they headed to towards Pikitup’s offices.
Police fired volleys of rubber bullets and stun grenades and also sprayed them with tear gas.
Pikitup urged Joburg residents and businesses to keep their refuse bins on their properties until they received a communication to do otherwise.
Residents took to social media to complain about the “smelly rubbish”, “stinking streets”, “revoltingly dirty town” – and said the uncollected rubbish in the heat posed a health hazard.
A rotting trail of rubbish and an accompanying stench by the strikers was left in Joburg streets. The litter, including burning dustbins and empty tear-gas canisters, marked some of the spots where protesters clashed with police.
Samwu’s demand for Nair to step down is fuelled by recent controversies. In June, she was held briefly by the Hillbrow police for theft. She was arrested with Donovan Denyssen, an IT department employee, who allegedly gave Nair and her close relatives cellphones without following the proper procedures.
Last year, the City’s risk management department conducted an investigation and found that several cellphones had gone missing from a safe room and that Denyssen was the only person who had the keys. Denyssen told investigators he had “issued” Nair with three Samsung phones.
A report stated that, as a result of Denyssen’s action, Pikitup incurred a loss of R33 237 and that Nair should pay it back.
Last year, Denyssen resigned after the council investigated him. He was found guilty in absentia. Despite this, in May this year, Nair rehired him on a whopping R1.4 million annual salary.
The charges against Nair and Denyssen were withdrawn in court after Pikitup officials wrote affidavits saying the cellphones no longer had any value, so charges should be dropped.
Mashapu said the board had established the facts on this matter internally and was satisfied there was “no basis to the allegations of theft”.
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