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'Politically driven' Tshwane council workers' strike sees intimidation, services cut

26 October 2021 - 17:15
Tshwane said it was granted an interdict on Friday by the labour court against the strike by Samwu members on Monday and will be billing the union for damages. File photo.
Tshwane said it was granted an interdict on Friday by the labour court against the strike by Samwu members on Monday and will be billing the union for damages. File photo.
Image: THE HERALD/MIKE HOLMES

A municipal workers' strike has hit bus and refuse removal services in Tshwane, the city said on Tuesday.

This as protests by employees affiliated to labour union the South African Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu) continued.

City of Tshwane spokesperson Selby Bokaba said some employees were subjected to intimidation, while others were violently removed from the Wonderboom electricity depot.

He said the Tshwane bus service, A Re Yeng, and bulk waste collection to businesses in the CBD had been disrupted. The Rosslyn depot had also been blocked and the Lyttleton office, in Centurion, was “forcefully closed”.

Samwu members have downed tools in a wage dispute with the city.

Bokaba said the Akasia Driving Licence Testing Centre (DLTC) closed doors after staff members were intimidated and forced to join the strike by their protesting colleagues.

He said while other services had not been severely affected by the strike, there was, however, the likelihood of the turnaround time to service interruptions regarding electricity, water and sanitation being affected.

“The city is quantifying the damages and costs incurred as a result of the illegal strike and will issue the bill against Samwu for the wasteful costs incurred as a result of this unlawful strike,” Bokaba said.

Utility services MMC Phillip Nel said the strike action was leading to prolonged electricity outages due to intimidation of teams. Sabotage was also a factor.

This was on top of the city’s electricity network taking strain caused by load-shedding. 

“This is normal, as our network was not designed with load-shedding in mind, and it damages our systems. However, it is being made significantly worse by negative action by illegally striking workers aligned to Samwu,” Nel said in a statement.

“From simply downing tools to actively preventing other city employees from working, the strike is having a severe effect on the time it is taking to restore outages.”

He said while the strike has limited the workforce available to respond to outages, some areas were badly affected on Monday. 

“We have, however, been working hard to restore services,” he said.

Nel said their teams were experiencing difficulties doing their work in the face of intimidation, being prevented from accessing materials and being forcibly removed from offices. 

“The city is working with security agencies to ensure we support our staff. The strike is driven by politics in an attempt to sabotage service delivery before the election. The majority of Tshwane officials want to work but are being prevented from doing so.”

On Monday, the city said it was granted an interdict on Friday by the labour court against the strike action by Samwu members.

According to the city, the court ruling instructed Samwu members to immediately disperse and restrained them from participating in unlawful or unprotected strikes. It prohibited them from performing acts of destruction of public or private property and from intimidating any city employees not partaking in the strike.

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