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The News Line: Feature Angry South African workers march on municipal offices! THE South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) held a demonstration on Thursday marching to the Midvaal Municipal offices, south of Johannesburg, in protest against working conditions and to deliver a memorandum of demands.


Samwu’s spokesperson, Papikie Mohale, said the protest march followed numerous grievances which have been raised with the municipal management and ignored. Samwu has been at loggerheads with the Democratic Alliance-run municipality for a long time, especially in the run-up to last year’s local government elections, over a request that the entire municipality be re-graded to a higher category.

Angry Midvaal Municipality employees affiliated to Samwu last year staged a violent protest in the town and disrupted service delivery despite the Bargaining Council’s decision to ban their strike. Midvaal Municipality, which includes towns like Meyerton, Daleside, Randvaal, Henley-on-Klip, Walkerville, and De Deur, is home to more than 111,000 people and has more than 29,000 households.

Mohale said Samwu’s memorandum of demands includes allegations of maladministration, irregular awarding of tenders, irregular appointment of attorneys for the council, racism, sexual harassment, flawed recruitment processes, outsourcing, and the use of labour brokers.

Workers gathered from 9am local time and deliver ed the memorandum of demands at 12:00 noon. Samwu also said its members intend to picket everyday from 07:30 in the morning to 16:00 in the afternoon within a demarcated area in the public parking space at the municipal offices for an indefinite period.

In a notice to residents and business owners, Midvaal municipal manager Albert de Klerk confirmed that Samwu had notified the municipality that it had embarked on strike action which started on Thursday.

De Klerk said: ‘Although we have put measures in place to ensure continued service delivery as far as possible, please note that certain services may be affected. We ask the community to bear with us in these trying times.’

Meanwhile, workers from both Ugu and Ray Nkonyeni municipalities (RNM) on Thursday brought the Port Shepstone Central Business District (CBD) to a standstill. Disgruntled workers belonging to the SAMWU trade union marched from Chris Hani Square (Dick King car park) at 10am and handed over a memorandum to Ugu mayor Mondli Chiliza and RNM mayor Cynthia Mqwebu at the RNM offices in Connor Street.

According to union chairman, Xolani Shinga, several meetings held with both municipalities’ top management had reached a deadlock, forcing workers to down tools and march to get their message across. Once again, the Sanlam Group Scheme is on the top of the list.

Ugu workers claim municipal manager DD Naidoo and his management team are refusing to pay back the rest of their money. Last year, Ugu staff went on strike, demanding to be paid money from their ‘group scheme’ contributions after Ugu cut ties with Sanlam.

The strike saw the almost the entire South Coast left high and dry amid allegations the Ugu workers were sabotaging the system. To avoid a total system collapse, municipal management made a promise to source funds from the municipality and pay workers at least five years’ worth of contributions until the Sanlam legal dispute had been resolved.

Workers are also demanding the reinstatement of Phila Madwe, who was suspended after the recent wildcat strike by Ugu workers. Meanwhile, RNM employees want the job evaluation process to be reinstated. They claim proper processes were not followed and that workers were not happy with a number of issues, including salary increments and promotions.

The union said it could not say whether the legal strike action by its members would affect water supply or other services offered by the municipalities. Elsewhere, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has said that South Africa’s Labour Court has ordered that several South African Airways (SAA) executives must be suspended pending corruption investigations.

According to Numsa’s acting spokesperson, Phakamile Hlubi, former SAA acting chief executive, Musa Zwane; head of baseline maintenance Chaile Makaleng, head of procurement Nontsasa Memela, and Princess Tshabalala who are also in procurement, have been suspended. Hlubi said SAA got more than it bargained for by going to court in a bid to block Numsa members from marching to the state-owned airline highlighting the crisis of corruption at the airline.

Hlubi said: ‘The Labour Court found in our favour and ordered that the executives must be suspended pending an investigation into corruption. ‘The Labour court realised that our members are waging an honourable fight against corruption at the airline, and sided with us,’ Hlubi said.
‘The court also ordered that SAA must appoint an independent advocate who is acceptable to both parties to chair any disciplinary hearing that may follow. This is to ensure that the airline doesn’t manipulate the process in order to protect senior managers.’

However, SAA spokesperson, Tlali Tlali, claimed that NUMSA was ‘wittingly or unwittingly misrepresenting the position of the court’ on the matter. Nowhere in the order does the court instruct that Mr Zwane and/or any of the officials be suspended. Paragraph 1 of the order instructs that the scope of the investigation be broadened to include inquiry into conduct of the individuals cited therein for possible breach of company policies.’

The court order made provision for the institution of disciplinary proceedings if the investigation ordered and also uncovered grounds for such. ‘We are nonetheless considering our options and cannot rule out an option to take aspects of the order on appeal.’

There have been several forensic investigations at SAA conducted by various firms including one conducted by Open Waters, Ernst and Young, and Edward Nathan Sonnenberg, detailing incidents of wide scale looting and corruption.

Hlubi said SAA, however, had refused to take action against these executives despite them being implicated in these reports for alleged corruption. She said one of NUMSA’s demands during the Friday march was that senior executive managers at SAA who have been implicated in corruption must immediately be placed on suspension pending a disciplinary process.

Hlubi concluded: ‘Furthermore the court also ordered that NUMSA must be allowed to give evidence during the investigation. Since we got what we wanted through the courts, we now no longer have to resort to a strike.’
 
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