Rand Water says taps won’t run dry as workers embark on ’illegal strike’
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By Itumeleng Mafisa
Johannesburg - Rand Water has reassured its customers that water supply will not be disrupted by Wednesday’s worker strike that will see hundreds of employees downing tools.
The government entity has described the strike as unprotected and illegal.
It accused the union of acting in haste as the dispute is due for conciliation on April 28.
The SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) is upset over a lack of consultation to amendments done to employees’ contacts; this includes the lack of consultation over the withdrawal of performance bonuses.
The union has also accused Rand Water of threatening workers who go on strike with dismissals.
Rand Water spokesperson Justice Mohale confirmed that the strike was illegal and said the dispute between the unions and Rand Water was still at mediation phase. He raised concerns that because of the Covid-19 pandemic some of the employees were regarded as essential service workers.
Rand Water supplies bulk portable water to municipalities in several provinces including Gauteng, Free State, North West and Mpumalanga.
“Mindful of the eminence of the Covid-19 pandemic and conscious of our mandate to ensure an uninterrupted service, Rand Water would like to inform the public that we have adequate systems in place to ensure a sustainable supply of potable water to our customers,” Mohale said.
Samwu claims the strike is protected and that their members will be downing tools across difference provinces. The union anticipates at least 2 000 of its members will go on strike.
“This protected strike action is called in terms of Section 64(1) read with Section 64(4) of the Labour Relations Act.
“Samwu has successfully referred a dispute to the CCMA regarding the unilateral change of conditions of employment and service for workers at Rand Water as communicated by the employer to workers on March 31, 2021,” Samwu spokesperson Mamorena Madisha said.
Workers had sacrificed much of their time because of the Covid-19 lockdown with some spending a long time from their families to ensure parts of the country had clean water.
“We know that taps will definitely run dry in all areas that are serviced by Rand Water.
“However, this is noble, justifiable and well within our rights.
“We as a trade union will not allow the employer to bully workers by unilaterally changing employees’ conditions of service without any consultation whatsoever.
“Our members and their interests come first,” Madisha said.
Workers were angry because Rand Water had sent an email to them on Easter Monday informing them there would be an amendment to their contracts. While Rand Water used machines as part of the water purification process, most of the work depended on human interaction.
“Our attempts to engage the employer was also that we ensure there is labour stability at the water board. However, it seems as though the union has been talking to people who are not interested in seeing residents and businesses having an uninterrupted water supply,” Madisha said. A bigger water sector strike was also on the cards.
“Rand Water should consider this strike as a dry run for what is coming their way when Samwu will be presenting its salary and wage demands at the Amanzi Bargaining Council (ABC) which is inclusive of all of the country’s 12 water boards,” Madisha said.