South Africa: Municipal Workers Down Tools Across Nelson Mandela Bay

9 February 2021

Port Elizabeth — Workers want a R7,000 Covid-19 compensation allowance

Municipal workers across Nelson Mandela Bay downed tools on Tuesday.

Their main demand is for a R7,000 Covid-19 compensation allowance.

The City says it is in a closed meeting with the unions.

Members of the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) downed tools at depots across Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality on Tuesday morning.

The workers are demanding R7,000 per employee, saying it's a "Covid-19 compensation allowance".

Other demands include the filling of vacancies, discount on electricity and water accounts for municipal workers, insourcing of services, a scarce skills payment, and the full employment of all contract workers.

About 200 protesting workers sang "Amabhulamnyama andenzi wari" ("Black boers make me worried)" on busy Govan Mbeki Avenue, in front of the Mfanasekhaya Gqobose and Lillian Diedricks Buildings, which closed their doors.

A convoy of police and defence force members drove past the protesters.

Siphiwo Nxangane, full time SAMWU shop steward, said workers at depots in Despatch, Uitenhage and Port Elizabeth had all downed tools.

According to SAMWU regional chairperson Enoch Gcula, "The allowance is for our workers who have been working during Covid-19 pandemic."

SAMWU regional secretary Melikhaya Kortjan, said, "In the first week that Mayor Nqaba Bhanga was elected ... he said he is here to cut down overtime usage, instil discipline and professionalism ... saying that the municipality is overspending on overtime."

"He accused us of not working in the first eight hours of the day, saying we fold arms for the first 8 hours and start to work after 4pm, when there is overtime opportunity."

"We told him to rather do an audit on vacancies because overtime is as a result of many vacancies that have not been filled".

"We are also demanding the removal of acting City manager Mandla George, because he issued a directive that all workers must return to work, effective from 1 of February, whilst the municipal buildings are not complying with Covid-19 health and safety standards," said Kortjan.

Nelson Mandela Bay Municipal spokesperson Mamela Ndamase said, "A meeting is currently taking place between our Corporate Services Department and the unions. It's a closed session. We'll update you after the meeting."

The mayor's office had not replied at the time of publication.

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