Municipal workers in Port Elizabeth march for better working conditions

Demawusa members on Thursday marching down Govan Mbeki Avenue, Port Elizabeth, on their way to the City Hall. Photo by Joseph Chirume

Municipal workers in Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality march for insourcing and danger allowance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

About eighty disgruntled workers of Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, led by the Democratic Municipal and Allied Workers Union of South Africa, (DEMAWUSA), marched on Thursday to the City Hall in Port Elizabeth to demand full-time employment and a covid-19 danger allowance.

The workers, most of whom have worked for the municipality for several years, want the municipality to fulfill its previous promises of absorbing them on a full-time basis.

The workers are demanding a covid-19 allowance of R7,000 per month across the board. They argue that they do hazardous jobs that expose them to contracting the coronavirus.

Siphiwo Ndunyana of Demawusa addressed the protesters first. Turning to the mayor’s representative, Lulamile Moolman, Ndunyana said, “We have sent our grievances to the municipality not once but there is no response. We will not continue talking without realising tangible results. We want insourcing of all the workers to be implemented.”

He said Demawusa submitted a list of grievances on 4 December 2018, which has not been responded to.

“We want IPP plumbers and meter readers to be insourced. There are many seasonal workers with several years working for the municipality. These should be made permanent. We also have a batch of security guards who were left out when the first group was absorbed by the municipality; they should be hired and made permanent.

“We are demanding equal pay for equal jobs for our vulnerable members. Many workers, especially those at the call centres and in the security department, are earning salaries that are inconsistent with their grades while their colleagues doing the same jobs earn more. This should end,” said Ndunyana.

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He added that part-time workers are vulnerable, often having no adequate protective clothing, and are exposed to unfair labour practices.

Part-time workers don’t have medical aid nor pensions funds, and he warned that Demawusa will fight the municipality until it upholds fair labour practices.

Demawusa chairperson for the Nelson Mandela Bay region, Mlamli Sidzumo, accused some senior officials of pulling the plug on insourcing by presenting unrealistically exorbitant budgets to the council for approval.

“We know that some of the officials have business interests in municipal projects and are the ones derailing the programme. They present complicated and ridiculously high budgets to make the council reject the idea of insourcing by calling it an expensive project,” said Sidzumo.

He said the city council could not agree to the insourcing of meter readers after it was told there was a need to buy seven Quantum taxis to ferry the employees. “The officials were lying. Meter readers are dropped at a central point then they walk door-to-door, capturing meter readings,” said Sidzumo.

Konde Santi has been working as a seasonal lifeguard since 1996. He lives in Kwazakhele with his wife and three children. He said he craves to have his children attend better equipped schools.

“But that cannot happen because I only work half a year earning R8,000 per month. I want to be employed full-time so that I can have benefits and also qualify to buy a car and a house on credit. I am a qualified lifeguard and I really like my job. I hope this time the municipality will take us on a full-time contract,” Santi said.

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Monde Petani also lives in Kwazakhele, with his six siblings and his child. He is one of Attention To The Poor (ATTP) leak repair technicians, joining the programme as long ago as 2007.

He showed Elitsha a letter confirming that they will be under the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).

“This is to confirm that the ATTP leak programme will be implemented through the EPWP interim arrangement up until council has taken a decision about insourcing,” he said.

The letter is signed by the Director of Water Distribution Infrastructure and Engineering, Joseph Tsatsire, on 18 May 2020.

Lulamile Malooman promised that a meeting between Demawusa and the Executive Mayor, Cllr Buyeye, will take place on Tuesday, and will include officials from the Infrastructure and Engineering as well as the Budget and Treasury departments.

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About Joseph Chirume 25 Articles
I was born in the shoe manufacturing town of Gweru in Zimbabwe,1970. I came to South Africa and did some odd jobs before writing for a number of publications. At present I am doing a Masters in Journalism through distance learning.