400 workers on strike at Kouga Municipality

Municipal workers want Public Works Programme contracts extended; mayor says jobs must be rotated

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Photo of a street with workers in red tops
Rubbish strewn on Da Gama Road, Jeffreys Bay, after Kouga Municipal workers protest. Photo: Robbie Irlam

On Tuesday hundreds of Kouga Municipality workers affiliated to SAMWU (South African Municipal Workers’ Union) went on strike for a second day after talks with the employer reached a deadlock.

The strikers are demanding that the contracts of 74 EPWP (Expanded Public Work Programme) workers, which terminated on 28 February, be extended.

Workers gathered at the municipal offices in Da Gama Street, Jeffreys Bay, holding placards and singing. The union said 400 workers were on strike but the municipality did not confirm this number. Kouga employs 1,000 municipal workers.

SAMWU representative for the Kouga Region, Clifton Booysen, said, “We held discussions with the municipality at the end of last year and reached an agreement that these workers would have their contracts extended for another period. This has been happening before, so nothing was strange … We were baffled to see that instead of extending their contracts, the municipality went ahead to employ about 48 new workers to replace these workers.”

He said there were also 24 workers who had been working as casuals for many years. “In our discussions with the municipality, we reached an agreement that they would be employed permanently,” he said.

However, Kouga Executive Mayor Elza Van Lingen said, “Every EPWP worker signed a contract in November last year that clearly stated that they would be employed from November to 28 February 2017.”

She said the EPWP “is not meant to create permanent employment, but is a short term job creation project that tries to bring food to the tables of many people.”

Van Lingen said, EPWP “is a rotational project that tries without any favour or corruption to accord every unemployed resident a chance to also work and improve their lives in that short period of time. We … have managed to create a comprehensive database of the unemployed in this municipality.”

Van Lingen said some of the 74 workers had already their contracts extended on several occasions.

“We need to give other unemployed residents a chance to work. We have a population of 113,000 people in the municipality with more than 30% of them not employed,” she said.

After gathering at the administrative offices, angry workers vented their frustration by spreading rubbish on the streets of Jeffreys Bay.

Van Lingen said rubbish was also strewn on the streets of Hankey, council property, including the entrance gate to the municipal building, was damaged in Jeffreys Bay , and human faeces was thrown at a building in Humansdorp.

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Write a letter in response to this article


Dear Editor

I walked along your beach as a visitor at the end of February 2017. There were 6/7municipality workers standing on the beach doing nothing, and only one sweeping the rubbish up. Considering the amount of rubbish that is on the beach, including glass, all of them should have been working.

We were on the beach a couple of hours walking and all the workers did in that time was talk. The beach should be kept clean and workers should be doing what they are paid for. If not, pay people who want to work and make Jeffreys Bay a lovely place to visit. The town is very run down. The municipality should keep quality workers and look after them.

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