Buffalo City workers block roads with burning tyres


Samwu demands a R2,000 wage increase

Photo of burning tyres in a street.
Striking municipal workers burned tyres on the streets of East London yesterday. Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

Striking Buffalo City Metro municipal workers blocked roads in the centre of East London and King William’s Town with burning tyres and garbage. They are demanding a R2,000 a month wage increase.

The workers, members of the South African Municipal Workers’ Union, also want the increase backdated to 2011 when the municipality became a metro.

The strike started two days ago after the metro started using ten new refuse removal trucks to assist in collecting rubbish on Friday.

Angry workers accused metro management of not caring about them and of giving tenders to each other.

On 24 February, workers marched to the city hall to hand over a memorandum of their grievances to mayor Alfred Mtsi. They gave Mtsi seven days to respond to their demands which included,

  • need for protective clothing;
  • permanent jobs for those who had been on the Expanded Public Works Programme for more than three years;
  • end to outsourcing; and
  • scrapping of the electronic attendance system.

Workers GroundUp spoke to said they earned between R2,000 and R3,000 a month.

Yesterday, Samwu said that Mtsi had not met their demand to respond within seven days. Instead he had referred the matter to the labour forum.

Samwu Deputy Secretary in Buffalo Bay Metro, Siphokazi Njani, said workers had made it clear in their memorandum that the forum was no longer functioning, which was why they had taken their grievances to Mtsi.

Mtsi had not addressed any of their grievances, she said.

“All we want is equal treatment. Workers demand a R2,000 increase and it must be backpaid to 2011 when the municipality became a metro. And we also demand a safe working environment for our members. Some of the workers are working without protective equipment. When we asked the municipality about that they claimed that they do not have money. But not so long ago they hired new refuse trucks from Port Elizabeth and who is benefiting from that? Obviously not our workers,” she said.

She said workers would continue with the strike.

“Our members are not happy and it is the employer’s duty to address them.”

Njani said the electronic attendance system forced workers to return to the office to clock in, even if they were working far from the office.

“Even if the working hours are over, they want you to go back to the office to clock out. If you do not go back to the office, they deduct your money,” she said.

“We are tired of playing games. It is time we showed them that we are tired of these games,” one worker who was burning tyres in East London city centre told GroundUp.

She said Mtsi did not take them seriously.

“We believe that only the mayor can solve this problem. We are given peanuts, even though we are the ones making sure that this city is always clean,” she said.

Some of the workers shouted at the GroundUp reporter: “Leave us alone, go to Mtsi.”

In King William’s Town, workers who were burning tyres stopped when it started raining.

At the time of publication, there had been no response to requests for comment from the metro.

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TOPICS:  Government Labour

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