This is abuse, say CBD parking marshals
Cape Town - Parking marshals in the Cape Town city centre have revealed shocking details of the conditions under which they work.
They say they are charged for the shortfall if they do not make their daily quotas, and complain about having to clean the toilets at their employer’s office for no extra pay.
They also say they are being forced to pay for the use of dirty uniforms, and are body-searched to see whether they are concealing any takings at the end of a day’s work.
Dozens of protesting marshals picketed outside their employer’s offices on Castle Street on Monday.
The protest resulted from Street Parking Solutions’ announcement last week that the marshals’ daily targets were to be raised, the Cape Argus was told. The company has a contract with the city to collect parking fees in the CBD.
Zunade Loghdey, the company’s owner, acknowledged receipt of the Cape Argus queries about his employees’ claims, but declined to comment.
All the marshals who spoke to the Cape Argus did so on condition that their names not be used, saying they feared they could lose their jobs.
“We work very hard but if we do not make our targets, the boss makes us pay (the shortfall) out of our own pockets. Now, just as we are entering a period where there are fewer cars are on the road (the festive season), they tell us that the targets will be raised. It is abuse,” said one woman.
The targets vary according to how busy a designated area is, and according to the number of parking bays in an area. Examples given were R85 a day for two parking bays in one area and just over a R1 000 a day for 20 bays in another.
One man alleged that the company had retracted a contractual obligation to return 23 percent of the target to the workers, if the target is reached. Marshals were made to sign new contracts, he said, which meant the attendants now only keep what they earn over and above the targets.
“When you come back from a day’s work the managers sometimes search you to make sure you are not hiding money. It is degrading,” he said, adding that he made R150 for himself on a busy day and nothing on a quiet day.
“This is why we are frustrated and sometimes rude to motorists. Many people try to drive away without paying us, and that means the money has to come out of our own pockets. I just want to say ‘please, don’t do that’ to all the drivers. It makes our lives very difficult.”
The woman also expressed concern about workplace hygiene. She said the marshals had to clean the office toilets, a task which ate into the work day and for which they were not paid.
Failure to comply resulted in a fine or an allocation of a “bad stretch of road where it is almost impossible to make your target”.
The blue-and-orange uniforms had to be hired daily at R7. They were shared between staff and often not properly cleaned, workers said.
“We are only allowed to wear underwear and a T-shirt underneath our uniforms. I don’t know why, it is just the rules. And when it rains and gets cold, we feel like we’re going to freeze.”
Another marshal said: “If you have worked here for a long time, it means you have essentially paid for a number of uniforms. Yet, you don’t own one.”
Michael Bagraim, chairman of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s human capital portfolio committee, said the working conditions at Street Parking Solutions had been discussed on various occasions at executive meetings at the chamber.
“If these allegations are true, many of them would amount to gross contraventions of the country’s labour legislation.”
He said it was up to the City of Cape Town, which had awarded the company the contract to manage the CBD’s paid parking system, to ensure the company did not break the law.
“Failing that, the contract should be cancelled.”
City spokesman Simon Maytham originally said the dispute was an ongoing internal affair between the company and its employees.
The city had thus refrained from commenting on it in the past.
In response, Bagraim said the city could not expect workers – many of whom were non-unionised, and some of whom were foreign and lacked legal knowledge and financial resources – to fight for legal conditions of employment without help.
Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport, said the grievances raised by the marshals should be dealt with in terms of the contract of employment with Street Parking Solutions.
The city had once, upon receiving compaints from Street Parking Solutions staff, asked the labour department to investigate whether the company’s employment contracts and practices were lawful, and “the department confirmed that they were”.
“Our contract with the service provider requires that they comply with all national legislation.”
However, following Monday’s complaints, the city would request “evidence” from SPS that its practices complied with “all employment legislation”.
The contracts for on-street parking management would go out for tender in the near future.
“We are investigating how we can improve on the current model, including the conditions under which the parking marshals operate, in the future contracts,” said Herron.