Strikers promise worse chaos

Striking municipal workers in eThekwini threatened to “intensify” their actions from today, including plunging Durban into darkness, leaving the city without water and “causing casualties”. If this happens, eThekwini will end up in a similar state to areas in eShowe and Underberg where residents have been left without water.

South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) secretary general Nhlanhla Nyandeni said last night their strike would continue until their wage demands were met.

Samwu downed tools earlier this week for an 18 percent increase, or R2 000, whichever was the greater. The South African Local Government Association (Salga) has offered 6.8 percent. Nyandeni said if there was no positive feedback from Salga, the union was willing to “intensify” their strike action from today.

“All the depots, Durban Solid Waste, water, electricity and other essential services will come to a standstill,” said Nyandeni. He said even the Metro Police departments would be affected.

“If there’s no response by Monday, the struggle will intensify, the whole city will be in darkness, there will be no water, there will be casualties as well,” said Nyandeni.

He said the union was opposed to the city employing “scab” labourers to collect refuse, saying those workers would be “stopped”.

The interdict secured by eThekwini municipality was “null and void” he said, as the union had legally opposed it.

“We led arguments in court yesterday, and as such the existing interdict is not applicable,” said Nyandeni.

Yesterday, about 350 workers picketed outside the Florence Mkhize building on Anton Lembede (Smith) Street.

“The city lost a lot in revenue because people couldn’t make payments,” said Nyandeni.

Meanwhile, Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu) regional manager Dave Rogers said their strike had begun yesterday but he was unable to say how many of their members had opted to down tools.

“We have a lot of essential service workers who will probably continue to work,” he said.

Imatu has about 12 000 members in eThekwini and Rogers expects about half of those to march in the Durban city centre on Wednesday. Samwu held their march on Wednesday, during which some members burnt rubbish bins.

eThekwini municipality spokesman Thabo Mofokeng said there had been sporadic acts of violence yesterday.

“There were breaches in terms of the rules of picketing, but the city is engaging with the unions on this,” said Mofokeng, adding that residents should keep their refuse bags inside their properties and place them on the pavement only on refuse collection days.

Striking municipal workers on the rampage in the Eshowe area caused serious damage to a number of water meters, leading to massive water losses, as well as smashing the windows at the uMlalazi Municipal offices and overturning rubbish bins on to the street.

Yesterday, Danie Lubbe, acting municipal manager for uThungulu District Municipality, under which uMlalazi Municipality falls, said reservoir levels were getting dangerously low.

At uMhlathuze Municipality, in Richards Bay, workers set tyres alight and stormed the municipal buildings earlier this week to hand over a memorandum of grievances.

In the Kwasani municipality, in the Underberg area, charges of sabotage were expected to be laid by the local councillors against striking municipal staff. DA councillor Dave Adam said water valves were selectively shut down, depriving local homes, businesses and tourist destinations in the area of water supplies.

Pietermaritzburg, spokesman Brian Zuma said there had been no violent incidents there yesterday.

“Striking workers, however, have been served with a court interdict which says that essential service workers have to return to work,” said Zuma.

Salga could not be reached for comment yesterday. – Independent on Saturday

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