Solidarity to continue challenging deployment of Cuban engineers
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Pretoria - Trade union Solidarity will be continuing with filing court papers against the Department of Water and Sanitation over its decision to deploy Cuban engineers in South Africa.
The 25 engineers, who were welcomed by Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Lindiwe Sisulu in April, are said to have “expert knowledge” and able to assist with infrastructure maintenance in the country at services that will cost the taxpayers R18 million over three years.
The union last week withheld its bid to seek for an urgent interdict application in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, pending the disclosure of details regarding the deployment of the Cubans by the department.
The urgent application was set to be heard today, but was struck off the roll last week after the two parties reached an agreement.
However, Solidarity is now in the process of seeking a review application to have the department’s decision declared invalid in the court.
Addressing a press briefing yesterday, chief executive Dr Dirk Hermann said some of the information received from the department indicates that the Cuban engineers, who have employment contracts, will be paid up to R300 000 a year more than South African engineers.
“Part of their remuneration is extensive fringe benefits that include flight tickets for holidays in Cuba, furnished accommodation, food and telephone costs. This is despite the fact that Human Resources, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu publicly stated that the Cuban engineers are not employees and will not receive a salary.”
He said the organisation now had sufficient information to continue with its review application to have the minister’s decision declared invalid. The court battle will therefore be taken to a new level.
Hermann said: “Solidarity also revealed that the taxpayer will probably pay around R75m for the project and not R64 million as stated.
“There is now no doubt that the Cuban engineers actually have taken the jobs of South African engineers and are paid more, and that taxpayers will have to pay more than was initially stated.
“The department is struggling terribly to keep track with their own misleading stories. One must keep in mind that this type of review means, by law, that the Cuban engineers will have to work under constant supervision. All this… while qualified South Africans are raising their hands but being ignored,” Hermann added.
In a statement sent to the Pretoria News yesterday, Sisulu’s spokesperson Steve Motale rubbished Solidarity’s accusations, calling them a cheap point-scoring exercise.
“It is worth noting that Cubans played a crucial role for South Africa to attain its freedom. The historical ties between the two countries precede the pre-1994 dispensation.”
Motale said the ministry and the department waited in anticipation for another court action by Solidarity and hoped the matter would finally be settled.