MyCiti workers storm Civic Centre

Law enforcement officers watching one of the entrances to the Civic Centre after the striking workers were removed from the building. Photo by Qhama Mroleli

MyCiti bus project workers have been on an unprotected strike since the 15th of October to demand insourcing and equal pay for equal work.

The striking MyCiti bus project workers occupied the Civic Centre on Wednesday demanding to speak to the mayor of Cape Town. The workers have been on strike since the 15th of October and are demanding to be insourced by the City of Cape Town. They work for outsourced vehicle operating companies (VOC) as bus drivers, security guards, cleaners, cashiers and ambassadors.

“We went in because we wanted to speak to the mayor and the people responsible for transport in the City of Cape Town. We went in and we did in a peaceful way and we sat down and we were not even singing inside. We were approached by the law enforcement and we asked them to organise a meeting between us and the mayor. We were made to sit down for two hours but instead of bringing down the mayor, the law enforcement called on the Metro Police and SAPS. We were violently removed from inside the Civic Centre even though we were being peaceful,” said one of the leaders of the strikers, Sibongisile Mabindisa.

The striking workers have been interdicted by the City of Cape Town and have been sent letters of dismissal by the VOCs via WhatsApp.

“Last week Wednesday, we were called into a meeting with a representative of the VOCs, Sipho Africa who was accompanied by the law enforcement. He refused to sit down but told us that he is not going to speak to us since the City of Cape Town no longer sees us as the MyCiti employees,” said Mabindisa

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The following day, the leaders of the striking workers met with Mayor Dan Plato who was conciliatory and made a number of promises. “He apologised for the way the matter was handled by Brett Herron. He then promised that he was going to write a letter to the Department of Labour and to the Human Rights Commission to investigate the matter. He said he was going to do that the next day and he was going to copy us into his correspondence to them but up until now we haven’t seen those letters. We presented the memorandum to him and he signed it,” argued Mabindisa. “I have heard stories about how big of a liar he is; some of us have witnessed it first hand.”

He added that the strike was supposed to be for only one day but because of the “arrogance of Brett Herron in refusing to speak to us, the strike went on for days after that.”

Herron resigned from the council following the resignation of Patricia de Lille. Herron has since criticised the Democratic Alliance for blocking social housing on a prime piece of land in Green Point.

Mabindisa is one of the strike leaders that was arrested outside the Civic Centre on the 23rd of October after the strikers were interdicted by the City of Cape Town. They will appear in court on the 29th of November.

The office of the mayor had not responded to the allegations that were made by the striking workers. However, the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Transport and Urban Development, Felicity Purchase, who has replaced Herron, told Elitsha that the City won’t be able to insource the workers as they have a contract with the VOCs. 

“The City cannot insource the employees. The City has committed itself to the long-term operational empowerment of the minibus taxi industry by signing 12-year contracts with VOCs in November 2013. Thus, the VOCs are contracted by the City to operate the MyCiTi service and up to 80% of the operations of Phase 1 of the MyCiTi service (these are the inner-city routes, routes to Hout Bay and Hangberg, Atlantis, Table View, and beyond) are being run by the VOCs set up by impacted taxi associations. It is important to note that these contracts were negotiated as part of our strategy to empower and formalise the minibus-taxi industry,” said Purchase.

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