22 May 2019
About 100 members of the Democratic Municipal and Allied Workers Union of South Africa (DEMAWUSA) protested against the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality on Tuesday afternoon.
Workers carried placards and whistled. They sang songs such as “Voetsek, voetsek” (go away, go away) near the taxi rank on Govan Mbeki Avenue. They marched to City Hall.
The protesters demanded recognition of DEMAWUSA by the municipality as well as permanent jobs for casual municipal workers.
DEMAWUSA members include plumbers, meter readers, cleaners, security guards and call centre staff.
“We want a recognition agreement issued to us by the municipality,” said Siphiwe Ndunyana, the provincial coordinator of DEMAWUSA. “They have always blocked us, saying that they can’t engage with us as they have not yet recognised us.”
“But we submitted our membership to them as from 1 March 2019. They have not yet made any strides to deal with the issue of recognition.”
He said that DEMAWUSA has about 800 members and is a minority union. He said the union is fast-growing, with members of the other two other unions representing workers in the municipality — the Independent Municipal & Allied Trade Union (IMATU) and the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) — joining DEMAWUSA.
“Workers’ salaries are far too low… and they neither have medical aid nor a pension fund,” he said. The union is pushing for workers to be in-sourced.
Acting Executive Director of Corporate Services Thembisa Nompandana accepted and signed a memorandum from the protesters on behalf of the City. She told the protesters that the Acting City Manager was out of town, but that she and her team would meet with the protesters on Friday at 10am.
A worker from the crowd shouted, “This is like Hollywood. You are acting and the City Manager is also acting. Everybody is acting.”
Ndunyana also accused IMATU and SAMWU of working with the municipality.
SAMWU’s secretary Melikhaya Kortjan said, “What I know is that DEMAWUSA is not recognised by the municipality. I am appalled by their statement.”
Anthony Gallant, chairperson of IMATU, said his union actively fights for workers’ rights. “We wouldn’t be a union if it was not so.”