Refuse workers’ strike threat

Union demands overtime payments for working through lunch and tea breaks – or else

The South African Municipal Workers Union has given the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality an ultimatum – pay refuse workers overtime or they will embark on a fullblown waste management strike.

Samwu leaders claim the city promised to pay the refuse collectors for working through their lunch and tea breaks and had failed to do so for the past three months.

The metro, on the other hand, is adamant there was no such agreement and that a similar payment – a completion bonus – was done away with in September when 100 workers were paid a lump sum.

The completion bonus was to compensate staff to ensure they collected all the rubbish even if this exceeded their set working hours.

The council scrapped the bonus – which had been paid between 2013 and August last year – as it was regarded as illegal.

Workers have, however, now come forward to say they need to be paid for working through their lunch and tea breaks.

Samwu regional secretary Mqondisi Nodongwe said they had warned management that if workers were not paid by the end of business tomorrow, they would embark on a strike.

“We want our money. We are not asking or begging. It is money that we worked for,” he said.

“We have given them until the end of business on Wednesday to pay that overtime or we will exercise our right to strike.”

Nodongwe claims that after their strike in September, mayor Athol Trollip and his deputy Mongameli Bobani promised that the city would find a way to resolve the issue of what workers consider an hour’s overtime for their breaks.

“We said that until the municipality has proper facilities for our members to have lunch on site, we are going to have a problem of work piling up if we take lunch,” Nodongwe said.

“Trollip said to management ‘go and see how you can compensate for the one hour in a legal way’.

“If it is irregular, you must regulate it by paying them overtime.

“He even said that all they are interested in as politicians is a clean city,” Nodongwe said.

Asked if Trollip had promised workers they would be paid one hour’s overtime, the mayor’s spokesman Sibongile Dimbaza disputed that Trollip met with Samwu on the last day of the strike.

He said they were investigating allegations that workers were still paid a completion bonus between October and January totalling R1-million, after the council resolved to do away with it.

Trollip’s chief of staff Kristoff Adelbert said: “I can confirm that the average shift duration is five hours. There are no shifts that extend beyond eight hours, except in instances where there is a breakdown.”

Nodongwe was adamant, however, that Trollip, Bobani and city manager Johann Mettler had met with them.

In a recording leaked to The Herald, Bobani can be heard addressing workers at another meeting in October, saying the one-hour overtime issue would be resolved.

In the recording, Bobani can be heard saying: “In fact, it will happen. I have been told that time sheets are submitted and are captured wrong.

“I have instructed management to fix them [time sheets] now.”

Asked if he had promised workers that they would be paid the hour’s overtime after the council resolved to do away with the completion bonus, Bobani said: “There is a difference between the completion bonus and overtime that is worked by almost all the workers of this institution.

“It is legal to pay workers overtime that is worked. That is what I was referring to in that meeting.”

Mettler said: “There was no other agreement. I don’t know where this idea of one-hour overtime came from. We cannot agree to pay overtime in general.”

He said the conditions of service of waste workers were still under discussion with the unions.

“Somebody must have misled them and we are investigating that.

“Workers are allowed to take lunch and continue with work. Once they are finished working they can go home, even if they don’t finish the eight hours,” Mettler said.

“Most of them are done with collections after 9am.”

Nodongwe said they had never demanded a “general overtime”.

“They are lying if they suggest we want overtime even if we did not work.

“Also the [claim] that workers finish at 9am is not true, some work until 4pm,” he said.

“Workers have been working through their lunchtime and they need to be compensated for that.”

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