MyCiti workers vow to continue with strike

The striking workers argue that the police are siding with the employer companies and the City of Cape Town to repress the strike. Photo by Qhama Mroleli

The striking by MyCiti project workers have been on strike for two weeks and there has been no negotiation with the outsourced companies or the City of Cape Town yet.

Despite court interdicts and notices of dismissal, MyCiti bus project workers are adamant that they will continue with the strike until their demands are met. Bus drivers, ambassadors, cleaners, cashiers and security guards working for companies under the city’s rapid bus transport system have been on an unprotected strike since the 15th of October with their main demand being insourcing by the City of Cape Town. The strike started as a wildcat strike until their union, the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA) turned up three days into the strike. By then, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) on the scene having been “asked to assist by the workers”. On the same day, the City of Cape Town released a media statement that it had applied for a court interdict to ‘protect’ passengers and MyCiti bus property.

On Tuesday, the 23rd of October, five striking workers were arrested and later released on bail. Among them was the striking workers’ spokesperson and shopsteward at Transpeninsula Investments (a contractor for Table Bay Area Rapid Transit), Sibongisile Mabindisa. “The police pounced on me when I was sitting with some of the workers. They teargassed me and handcuffed me. We had been peaceful, we did not threaten anyone or damage property as it is alleged,” he said.

Mabindisa and the other four workers will appear in court on the 29th of November. The striking workers have received letters of dismissal from their employers. All the workers that Elitsha spoke to on Friday said they received the notice via Whatsapp. “I have also received a letter via Whatsapp notifying me of the disciplinary hearing that I had to attend, ” said Mabindisa. The letter sent to Mabindisa, dated 21 October, states that he is charged for “participating in an illegal strike”, making unauthorized representations to the media, and “bringing the company’s name into disrepute and loss of revenue.”

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According to NUMSA’s regional secretary, Vuyo Lufele, they are assisting the workers who have come forward with their notices to appear for disciplinary hearings. “The union has bailed out the workers that have been arrested. Our union has told us that they will stand with us until the end,” said Mabindisa.

Asked about the way forward, Mabindisa said that they are hoping that in addition to the strike action, pressure that will be brought to bear by both the Economic Freedom Fighters and the African National Congress councillors will be enough to force the City of Cape Town to insource them. Mabindisa blamed the Mayoral Committee Member (MEC) for Transport and Urban Development for the way things have turned out. “If [MEC] Brett Herron had sat down with us instead of running away and being arrogant towards us, we would have been back to work by now,” said Mabindisa. When the workers asked to meet with the councillor, Herron said that he was unavailable and wrote a statement a few days later condemning the workers and arguing that they are being used by the EFF.

Numsa’s regional secretary echoed the same sentiment, saying that its workers’ have come to rely on the political parties that have shown them solidarity and raised the insourcing of the workers in the city council.

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