Municipal employees bring Durban to a standstill
Striking workers say MK veterans are getting special treatment
EThekwini municipal employees brought the Durban city centre to a standstill on Tuesday in a wage protest. Motorists who were not part of the protest were held up in dense traffic for several hours as employees used municipal trucks to block the traffic and scattered rubbish in the streets.
Among the units that participated in the protest was Water and Sanitation, Parks, Durban Solid Waste (DSW) and Electricity.
South African Municipal Workers’ Union eThekwini chairperson Abraham Mchunu said employees would not return to work until salaries of all Grade 4 employees were raised to Grade 10 levels.
He said workers had discovered that the municipality had increased the salaries of employees who were part of uMkhonto weSizwe (MK), the armed wing of the ANC during apartheid. Mchunu said municipal management had increased MK veterans’ salaries by more than 100%. He said an MK veteran employee doing a plumbing job who used to earn R6,000 would now earn R20,000 a month.
“Grade 10 is only for qualified employees while Grade 4 is for those that don’t have matric. We don’t understand. Why would an MK veteran without a matric be promoted to a level of a qualified person?” said Mchunu.
“We are not against the promotion of MK veterans but we must be all be promoted. We all came here to work because we all need money. No one should be treated specially just because he or she went into exile,” said a protester who asked not to be named.
At the beginning of last week municipal employees threatened to down tools if the matter was not addressed in a few days.
They did so, protesting last Thursday in the municipal offices in Pinetown, west of Durban, and Springfield, north of Durban. They blockaded the entrances of the offices with water tankers and prevented people from entering. Durban Metro Police were called.
Themba Mavundla, provincial MK Veterans Association spokesperson, said: “The municipality has done nothing wrong because MK veterans deserve special treatment for liberating this country. We are planning to demand from government to also employ and promote children of MK soldiers who died in exile.”
By late afternoon the protesting employees were still waiting for the mayor to address them.
Attempts by GroundUp to reach the communications staff of the municipality by telephone and email were unsuccessful.
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