Durban - The demands from eThekwini Municipality's workers have deepened as more units join the strike to have their salary increased from grade 4 to grade 10.
On Monday the strike intensified. Traffic was brought to a standstill as refuse was threw on the busy streets.
Heavy trucks from Durban Solid Waste (DSW), and the departments of roads and transport, parks as well as the electricity department were left unattended on the roads blocking the traffic, while thousands of municipal workers protested in front of the City Hall.
Workers also tampered with infrastructure, water valves were opened and millions of litres of water were wasted.
Power outages were reported in several areas, allegedly deliberately done by the protesting workers.
Even lifeguards left the beaches unattended and joined the thousands of protesting city workers.
Workers are demanding that their salaries be increased to grade 10 level. This was triggered by the recent employment of MK veterans in a higher grade than other workers.
About 60 MK vets have started working for the Water and Sanitation Department. They will be responsible for fixing water leaks, the city confirmed.
However, unions said they were not consulted about the matter and found it very unfair to workers who have served in the municipality for many years.
It is alleged that the salary difference between the new recruits and old employees amounts to R9 000.
Abraham Xulu, Chairperson of South Africa Municipal Worker Union (Samwu) in eThekwini Region, said they have submitted their memorandum to the city and it was up to the managers to give them what they are demanding.
He said this was no longer about Water and Sanitation workers but it should be applied to all municipal workers.
Xulu said they were not opposing the employment of the MK vets or their salary grade, but they were fighting for fair treatment of all employees.
“We have addressed this issue in all union structures, provincial government and federations. We will not take anything less than what we demand,” said Xulu.
“The message from our members is grade 10 for all municipal workers,” he added.
A municipal employee on grade 10 could get a salary between R18 000 and R20 000 per month. If the eThekwini Municipality succumbs to the pressure and approves the upgrade, the minimum wage of the city’s employees is likely to increase dramatically.
Asked whether their demands were feasible and whether the municipality could afford them, Xulu said: “They have shown that they can do this. We won’t speak on their behalf, they have not said so.”
The City Manager has stated that the municipality cannot afford to give all employees a salary upgrade but they could only promote when the opportunity arises.
Negotiations between the municipality and unions are still underway.