Spar workers arrested after noise complaints

Prudence Mini

TWENTY-SEVEN protesting workers from the Summerbreeze Spar in Port Elizabeth were arrested yesterday and are due to appear in court today on a charge of violating a court order.

The workers, who belong to the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (Sactwu), have staged a number of protests at the Spar’s parking lot in Summerstrand since they downed tools on October 15.

The protected strike allowed them to protest 100m away – across the street from the store. However, the workers continued to protest at the far end of the parking lot.

Owner Dennis Hayes said they obtained a court interdict against the workers to force them to keep the protest 100m away and stop them from blowing vuvuzelas which, he said, was causing a public disturbance.

At midday yesterday, the workers were bundled into police vehicles after nearby residents complained of noise and violent behaviour by the protesters.

Spar employee Thando Kotyie said they wanted better working conditions.

“We are fighting for a provident fund and fair treatment.”

Vuyokazi Ngcita claimed that staff promotions were not given to black people.

“You will not find a black manager here. The black supervisors are always questioned and accused of doing something wrong. They are not given enough probation period to prove themselves.”

Kotyie said: “Only coloureds get employed to retail and wholesale operations and black people do not get promoted, even though they get sent to courses.”

Brenda Zanzeka said management did not pay them enough – only R10.70 an hour.

She added that they had no tea time and the lunch break was limited to 30 minutes.

“We are suffering to make ends meet, working with no benefits. We only get an unemployed insurance fund.”

Kotyie said the police had approached them to stop protesting because of public disturbance complaints.

“There are people that have written letters to Mr Hayes saying that we are acting in violent behaviour, have sticks and are throwing stones. That is not true, all we have used in the strike are vuvuzelas.”

Hayes said that before the strike he, along with a legal representative and a Sactwu representative, met to work out some conditions.

“From day one, they did not adhere to the rules. I had no option but to get an interdict. I didn’t want it to get to that stage.”

He said the police had tried twice to warn the protesters.

Hayes, who denied the racism claims, said he could not afford to provide a provident fund benefit because the supermarket was too new. It has been operating for five years.

“People don’t realise how it is to run a business like this and think I earn a lot. I don’t even own a car, I drive the Spar bakkie. It’s not easy.”

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