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Fri Aug 26 03:38:28 SAST 2016

Rubbish piling up is an uncomfortable metaphor for SA

The Times Editorial | 30 March, 2016 00:21

Filth pervades the streets of Johannesburg as striking rubbish removal workers flex their bargaining muscle and prove a point that all work, no matter how lowly skilled it might be, is important in a society.

Members of the South African Municipal Workers Union are turning the city into a garbage tip as their unprotected strike enters its third week amid demands for higher pay and the removal of a Pikitup boss.

Negotiations between the City of Johannesburg and the workers have stalled, so your litter will not be collected any time soon.

What happens next?

Should ratepayers continue paying their bills if the city is unable to provide a service? Should residents fork out extra cash to ensure streets are clean and their litter is disposed of by private contractors?

Johannesburg's mayor has uttered strong words against the forces behind the action and the intimidation of contracted workers trying to collect trash, but his words remain just words.

With no solution at hand, residents are starting to find alternatives.

Ask Post Office officials about the trouble its protracted work stoppages caused clients and how they found other ways of sending mail - and never looked back.

South Africa's economic hub simply cannot afford to host influential financial and business visitors when its streets are piled high with stinking rubbish bags.

In December, these same workers downed tools illegally and residents had to endure the inconvenience of not having garbage collected for several days. And there have been other, earlier, wildcat strikes.

The question the city must answer is whether it has control of the relationship it has with employees.

While the right to strike is protected by law, frequent illegal behaviour by unionised workers raises many questions about these rights and how they are enforced and policed.

Just find a solution - and quickly.

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