Another eThekwini strike looms that could halt service delivery

The Municipal and Allied Trade Union of South Africa (Matusa) is preparing to go on another strike which might again bring service delivery in eThekwini to a standstill. | Doctor Ngcobo/ Independent Newspapers

The Municipal and Allied Trade Union of South Africa (Matusa) is preparing to go on another strike which might again bring service delivery in eThekwini to a standstill. | Doctor Ngcobo/ Independent Newspapers

Published Mar 17, 2024


Durban — eThekwini residents should brace themselves for another strike that could again halt service delivery as another union has obtained a certificate from the Bargaining Council to down tools.

The Municipal and Allied Trade Union of South Africa (Matusa) told the Sunday Tribune that its looming strike action, with its date yet to be decided, would be legal unlike the one just experienced.

This was while the residents were still trying to recover from a South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) violent strike, which threw the city into disarray for almost three weeks.

On Wednesday, eThekwini Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda announced that Samwu had backed down by calling off its illegal strike, which started on February 27, and engaged in salary adjustment discussions with the City.

Matusa, like Samwu, is also demanding the benchmarking of workers’ salaries which, both unions say, other metros across the country, especially Ekurhuleni, have already implemented. But Ekurhuleni has denied this.

The unions said the benchmarking would see all salary scales moving from category eight to 10.

Matusa’s first deputy president Joe Mabaso said, unlike Samwu, his union had already declared a dispute with the municipality through the South African Local Government Bargaining Council, which issued a certificate to strike.

Mabaso said: “Late last week we embarked on a ballot process whereby we had to call all our members to vote whether or not we are going on strike.

“The strike date is yet to be decided because we are finalising the voting process.

“As we are speaking, the organiser and other members are sitting in our office calculating the votes of how many support the strike and how many do not.”

Matusa’s eThekwini secretary, Thokozani Maxego, said on Friday that the union would possibly only know on Sunday whether its members supported the strike.

“We are hoping to write to the employers on Monday, if that is the mandate from the workers.

“We have a certificate to go on a protected strike and we want to eliminate violence,” said Maxego.

Municipal spokesperson Gugu Sisilana said they would not engage the media on any labour/ union matters.

“There is a formal Bargaining Council structure where all labour matters are discussed.

“The municipality respects these processes and will continue to engage labour unions through these recognised structures,” she said.

Mabaso said of over 23 000 municipal employees, Matusa had more than 9000 members.

Mabaso and Maxego said they had warned Samwu against misleading employees to strike illegally, which led to the destruction of property, attacks on non-striking workers, murder and death threats.

Mabaso said after the strike had begun on February 27, he had phoned Samwu’s leadership to request a meeting.

“I phoned Samwu secretary Xolani Dube and I said to him workers are on an illegal strike while Matusa got a certificate to go on strike.

“I said please sit down with Matusa and discuss how we can together go on a protected strike? He said he would come back to me, but up to this day he never did,” Mabaso said.

Maxego added that Dube did not respond to an email requesting the meeting between the two unions. Maxego said at some depots workers were going out to do their work while others were not.

“The reality is that workers are now feeling like they are in a desert and have no leadership.

“Others are going out to work, some are just sitting in depots, while there are some who are being dismissed.

“At a New Germany depot all workers, about plus or minus 50, were fired on Thursday and they were employed by DSW as street sweepers, refuse collectors and dealing with bulk waste,” said Maxego.

Dube said his union could not join a strike organised by a competitor.

He confirmed that the Samwu strike was illegal but said the workers embarked on it without the union’s approval.

Another union, the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu), said it did not support the strike but its members, who could not report for duty because of death threats, had either been suspended or dismissed.

Imatu’s chairperson in eThekwini, Queen Mbatha, said the municipality has been issuing dismissal letters throughout the week.

“I don’t have records of the letters that have been served but members who have received notices have been coming to the office since Wednesday.

“I think the municipality had gone ahead and dismissed them,” she said.

Mbatha said the striking workers prevented their non-striking colleagues from entering their workplaces or depots.

“You have a place like Electron Road in Springfield Park, which has all the depots you can think of – DSW, water, electricity and engineering. So the whole complex was blocked.

“Everybody there was dragged out of the office. The same thing happened in Pinetown,” she said.

Sunday Tribune