Stalemate over refuse heads for court fight

Rubbish mounting up as workers take lunch and tea breaks

The stalemate between refuse collection workers and management at the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality over lunch and tea breaks is heating up, with the city turning to the courts. The metro applied to the Port Elizabeth Labour Court to interdict the refuse workers, who are said to be on a go-slow.

However, the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu), which represents the waste management staff, has denied they are on a go-slow, saying they will oppose the court application.

Samwu regional secretary Mqondisi Nodongwe said yesterday: “Workers decided to take their lunch time because the employer has scrapped the completion bonus [special bonus].

“So because they took lunch, they could not finish their work.

“Also, they have to go back to the depot to eat their lunch.

“That time of driving from the field to the depot is counted as work. The lunch hour starts when they get to the depot,” Nodongwe said.

Before the workers went on strike two weeks ago, they had worked for eight hours straight without taking lunch or tea breaks, he said.

Acting municipal manager Johann Mettler said a collection backlog had built up because the workers were taking their breaks.

“We have put them to terms by applying to court for an interdict. “We have also entered into negotiations to put an end to this situation.”

Refuse has not been collected according to schedule in some areas.

Two weeks ago, some staff embarked on a strike after the municipality decided to cut the extra bonus they had been getting since 2013, referred to as a “completion bonus”.

Last week, the metro signed an agreement with the workers to pay them a year’s once-off bonus to ease the sting of taking away the additional R1 300 they had been getting every month.

Nodongwe said they had met executive director of public health Andile Tolom yesterday.

“We have agreed to catch up on the backlog and [the workers] will work eight hours and anything more than that will be overtime,” he said.

Mettler said workers would collect refuse today.

“We will put in extra hours until, and including, Saturday, to deal with the backlog,” he said.

“Further talks are scheduled [for tomorrow] to deal with a more permanent solution.”

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