Rein in your members, Samwu asked

Aug 16 2011 22:16
Johannesburg - The municipal workers strike got off to a slow start this week but entered its second day on Tuesday with violence on the streets of Cape Town.

Workers looted from vendors, set plastic bins on fire and smashed the windows of vehicles as they protested for higher salaries in the Cape Town city centre.

Shortly after 14:00 the city's main shopping avenue, Adderley Street, was covered with litter and burned out bins. Shops on the street locked their doors as the workers, who were seen smashing the windows of vehicles, approached.

Parliament, near the top end of Adderley Street, was cordoned off by the police.

Thirteen protesters were arrested and would be charged with public violence, police said.

The SA Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu) downed tools on Monday, demanding an 18% pay rise from the government. The employers, the SA Local Government Association, were offering a 6.08% increase.

The City of Cape Town warned striking workers that it would take "whatever action... necessary" to protect its property, and would seek an interdict against the continuation of the strike should the violence continue.

Weather blamed

Democratic Alliance KwaZulu-Natal leader Sizwe Mchunu called on the union to rein in its members after they left the streets of Pietermaritzburg littered with rubbish on Tuesday.

Samwu's national spokesperson Tahir Sema blamed the cold, wet weather and internal divisions for the slow start to the strike in other provinces and said the action may take a "few days" to gain momentum.

"In KwaZulu-Natal the response to the marches and picketing was slow because of the cold and rainy weather. In Gauteng it was partly due to the wet weather and partly to divisions within a union branch.

"It did not go as well as we anticipated in the province," he said.

Sema said the union's national leadership were meeting the branch in Gauteng to iron out the internal divisions. Samwu expected about 145 000 workers to take part in the strike.

Salga in Gauteng on Monday said it was pleasantly surprised by the number of union members who arrived for work. Operations chief Lance Joel said if Gauteng did not attract strikers, it would be difficult to do so in any other province.

The City of Johannesburg said around 90% of municipal workers reported for duty on Tuesday.

Spokesperson Nthatisi Modingoane said the city's essential services were operating at full capacity.

Contingency plans

"We also want to use this opportunity to notify residents of the City of Johannesburg Municipality of a possibility of an unavoidable delay occurring in the performance of the services provided by the City and Municipal Owned Entities due to the current industrial action," he said.

The city would do "everything in its power" to deliver services and make contingency plans where required.

The City of Tshwane said the strike had also not had a huge impact on its ability to render services.

It said most workers were reporting for duty, and that bus services were operational with almost all the shifts running throughout Pretoria.

Samwu in the city disputed this, saying 97% of its 11 000 members in the capital have downed tools. Some departments within the metro embarked on a "go slow" with management threatening that strong action would be taken against them.

City of Tshwane spokesperson Pieter de Necker expressed disappointment at Samwu members who took to the streets earlier in the CBD as they did not have permission from the Tshwane metro police.

About 120 people took part in the illegal march and emptied dustbins in the streets.


Samwu in the Eastern Cape has meanwhile been denied a permit to march to the provincial government offices in Bisho.

"We were shocked and are convinced that the state institutions, in particular the police, are being used to crush the spirit of workers and demoralise our strike," Samwu Eastern Cape provincial secretary, Siphiwo Ndunyana, said.

The union would apply for another permit to march in Bisho on Friday.

Sema said there were no immediate talks scheduled and the union waited on the employer to revise their offer - the union would not settle for anything less than 10%.

"We are hoping to hear from them very soon. We are willing to call off the strike as soon as they table a reasonable offer, no less than 10%... we are willing to negotiate," he said.

Salga spokesperson Milisa Kentane could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday afternoon.

On Monday, she said the association's doors were open to talks and its offer stood at 6.08%.



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