Durban – The striking workers contracted to Durban Solid Waste (DSW) under the government’s Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) were given an ultimatum to resume duties on Monday or their contracts would be terminated on Tuesday.
The workers have been on strike since Friday, demanding permanent employment by the eThekwini Municipality. The strike has turned the city centre into a dump site, with a pungent smell hanging in the air for the better part of the weekend.
Rubbish collection was interrupted again on Monday morning as the strikers marched to the Sydney Road main depot where their representatives spoke to municipal leadership. This was despite the city on Sunday saying an agreement was reached that the workers would resume their duties.
“The municipality lied when they said we had an agreement. There’s nothing in writing, but, instead, an official came here and told us to write our names so that we can be processed for permanent employment. It was a plain piece of paper with no letterhead and some of us knew that we were being fooled. The same person who made us write our names said he could not take us to HR then (because it was Sunday).
“Today, we are here to be taken to HR to sign the employment document, but he is ignoring us now,” said an angry worker. She and fellow workers vowed not to back down until they were employed.
eThekwini Municipality said it has noted with “great concern” that some of the DSW employees had been prevented from conducting their duties by striking EPWP employees.
“Following extensive consultation with the EPWP employees on Sunday, it was agreed that staff members would return to work with immediate effect. This morning, staff members continued to strike. The municipality has since given all striking employees an ultimatum to resume duties this afternoon or have their contracts terminated tomorrow, 9 January 2017,” Mandla Nsele, eThekwini’s deputy head of communications, said.
The Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu) said the EPWP beneficiaries had a legitimate claim and that even though they held no membership, the union would support them to the end.
Stanley Khoza, the Imatu president in KZN, said EPWP beneficiaries were not to be exploited for cheap labour.
“The (Labour) Ministerial Determination provides that these people should be employed for a maximum of two years. At the end of this period they should get certificates of competency so that they can be employed or start their own companies. In this case many of these people have served for more than two years. This case can even be taken to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration for mediation,” Khoza said.
He said DSW had 1 700 beneficiaries of the EPWP. He warned them against negotiating with municipal officials without representatives as they were inexperienced.
Attempts to get clarity on the Ministerial Determination provisions from the municipality were unsuccessful.
According to reports from DailyNews, the head of DSW, Raymond Rampersad, referred comments to the eThekwini communications department.
Nsele could not be reached for comment again.
However, on Tuesday, Nsele said refuse removal services had resumed and that EPWP employees reported to work on Tuesday.