Streets trashed

No ‘har­mon­i­sa­tion’ as bins over­turned, lit­ter strewn about

The Rep - - FRONT PAGE - ANDISA BONANI and ABONGILE SOLUNDWANA

E noch Mgi­jima Lo­cal Mu­nic­i­pal­ity (EMLM) mayor Si­sisi To­lashe has con­demned the “il­le­gal strike” by Samwu mem­bers who are de­mand­ing the har­mon­i­sa­tion of salaries and has threat­ened to in­voke the prin­ci­ple of “no work, no pay”.

Mu­nic­i­pal work­ers and Samwu mem­bers downed tools last Thurs­day, de­mand­ing the har­mon­i­sa­tion of salaries of work­ers from the for­mer Tsol­wana, Nk­wanca and Lukhanji mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

This would mean that work­ers’ salaries from the erst­while mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties would be equalised on the same grades with work­ers do­ing the same jobs.

On Mon­day, dust­bins were emp­tied out into streets in Ko­mani, dis­turb­ing traf­fic and leav­ing the cen­tral busi­ness dis­trict in a mess.

To­lashe said they had talks with the Samwu lead­er­ship and had an agree­ment to pay the af­fected work­ers when the lo­cal au­thor­ity was in a po­si­tion to do so.

“They know the mu­nic­i­pal­ity does not have money to back-pay the af­fected work­ers at the mo­ment, but we had an agree­ment that once the mu­nic­i­pal­ity has re­cov­ered from its fi­nan­cial cri­sis, the nec­es­sary changes and pay­ments would be made.”

To­lashe said Samwu de­manded that work­ers be back­paid from 2016 when the three for­mer en­ti­ties were merged and that this would cost the mu­nic­i­pal­ity R18m.

“Out of about 700 mu­nic­i­pal work­ers, about 250 work­ers need to be back-paid from the year of the amal­ga­ma­tion to date and that would cost us R1.5m monthly. I do not un­der­stand why work­ers went on strike as, fol­low­ing sev­eral en­gage­ments with Samwu, we did not deny the work­ers were owed the money. There was even a coun­cil res­o­lu­tion to such ef­fect on Au­gust 30 and I thought we had an un­der­stand­ing.

“Noth­ing has changed on our side, es­pe­cially now that we have an ad­min­is­tra­tor who is here to look into and im­prove our fi­nances. Once we col­lect enough rev­enue, we will be­gin the process of rec­ti­fy­ing the is­sues of the for­mer en­ti­ties.”

To­lashe said the strike had re­sulted in all mu­nic­i­pal of­fices be­ing closed, which cost the lo­cal au­thor­ity huge sums of money as res­i­dents and busi­nesses

were un­able to pay for ser­vices.

She said the strike also posed a risk to the pay­ment of salaries for De­cem­ber be­cause, if the strike con­tin­ued, they would be un­able to pay work­ers.

Samwu’s Enoch Mgi­jima sec­re­tary Thabo Ng­wane ac­cused the mayor of mis­lead­ing the peo­ple of Enoch Mgi­jima, say­ing work­ers did not re­quest to be back­paid from 2016 but from this month and for the re­main­ing six months of the cur­rent fi­nan­cial year.

“We un­der­stand the mu­nic­i­pal­ity does not have money, so there is no way we would de­mand pay­ment from two years ago, but if the mayor con­tin­ues to paint us in a bad light, we will de­mand that of which she is al­ready ac­cus­ing us.”

Ng­wane said the lo­cal au­thor­ity re­ceived an­other por­tion of its eq­ui­table share which amounted to R59m and all they re­quested from the mu­nic­i­pal­ity was R8m to cover the en­tire debt.

“If they pay the re­quired amount and fix the grad­ing sys­tem, then ev­ery­thing will be well with us. The prob­lem is that they are plan­ning to do the same thing the for­mer mu­nic­i­pal man­ager Chris Mag­wangqana was sus­pended for – which is to pay the Eskom debt with the eq­ui­table share. That money is for mu­nic­i­pal oper­a­tions, in­clud­ing salaries, hence we ask they pay us the R8m from that fund.”

Bor­der-Kei Cham­ber of Busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tor Adre Bar­tis said she un­der­stood the need for har­mon­i­sa­tion, but that the cur­rent fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion of the mu­nic­i­pal­ity did not al­low it to make pay­ments at this stage.

“I be­lieve the lead­ers of the mu­nic­i­pal­ity have been trans­par­ent with the union in this re­gard as they have been with the rest of the com­mu­nity. Busi­nesses have been knocked hard by the strike, they want to pay ac­counts and ve­hi­cles from the car deal­er­ships can­not be li­censed. They can­not call any­one if there is an is­sue with elec­tric­ity and the refuse scat­tered around town does not en­tice cus­tomers to go to one’s busi­ness, es­pe­cially food es­tab­lish­ments.

“As much as we un­der­stand the need to strike, the ques­tion one would ask is why go to the ex­tent of over­turn­ing rub­bish bins onto the streets? Cars had to nav­i­gate their way and many were tourists who usu­ally stop in Ko­mani to fill up tanks and re­fresh.”

To­lashe apol­o­gised for the in­con­ve­nience caused by the strike and urged res­i­dents and busi­nesses who wanted to pay for ser­vices, to be pa­tient dur­ing this pe­riod.

Three EMLM gen­eral work­ers, who wanted to re­main anony­mous, vis­ited The Rep of­fices to com­plain about hav­ing served the mu­nic­i­pal­ity for more than a decade as ca­sual work­ers with­out be­ing con­sid­ered for per­ma­nent em­ploy­ment.

One said, “I started work­ing as a ca­sual worker in 2009. I have been earn­ing R1,500 per month from then un­til now. We want the com­mu­nity and po­lit­i­cal par­ties to in­ter­vene and for the labour law to be ap­plied. We have chil­dren and fam­i­lies – how are we ex­pected to sur­vive with this amount. We go around col­lect­ing waste with the truck, our work is risky, be­cause we can con­tract dis­eases or be in­jured yet EMLM does not pro­vide us with pro­tec­tive cloth­ing.”

He said there were more than 100 ca­sual work­ers and that they had been ask­ing the mu­nic­i­pal­ity to ad­dress their griev­ances.

The three work­ers said Samwu had failed the ca­sual work­ers.

“EMLM told us that the back pay was only for per­ma­nent em­ploy­ees. The union has not fought for us to be­come per­ma­nent nor for us to get pro­tec­tive cloth­ing.”

“Our over­time money does not reach R2,000 and be­cause of that, many of us do not work for ex­tra hours. We do not even get com­pen­sated when we get in­jured while on duty be­cause we are not in the sys­tem.”

Samwu sec­re­tary Thabo Ng­wana said the union was tend­ing to the griev­ances of the ca­sual work­ers.

He said the mu­nic­i­pal­ity had also made an an­nounce­ment that they were go­ing to cut some of the gen­eral work­ers due to the fi­nan­cial prob­lems.

Pic­ture: ANDISA BONANI

WHAT A MESS: Lit­ter in the streets of Ko­mani as the mu­nic­i­pal strike rages on

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