Refuse worker strike ends

Striking municipal workers before an agreement was reached to return to work.
Picture: Deneesha Pillay

Concern after trucks used to disrupt traffic before return

Striking municipal refuse workers were back on the job yesterday following a crippling week-long stayaway that saw garbage bags pile up in suburbs across the metro. Nelson Mandela Bay mayoral spokesman Sibongile Dimbaza yesterday said workers were back at work and “picking up where they left off”.

He did, however, warn that due to backlogs the situation would not be normalised immediately.

The workers downed tools over what they said were long hours without overtime pay, unpalatable working conditions and “the continuous failure by the employer to address their grievances”, South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) regional spokesman Mqondisi Nodongwe said.

“The demand was that the acting director waste management should be replaced by a more compatible person. The employer [municipality] agreed to replace him pending the outcome of the investigation on a number of allegations tabled by labour,” Nodongwe said.

Dimbaza said he was unable to divulge the terms on which the workers returned to their jobs as negotiations were still ongoing.

Just hours before workers returned to their posts, hundreds of Samwu members protested outside Lillian Diedericks House in Govan Mbeki Avenue.

Using trucks to block off the road, the workers disrupted traffic between Russell Road and Korsten Street for most of the morning.

Dimbaza said yesterday the workers had embarked on a strike at a time when the municipality was trying to engage with them.

“The city manager’s office and representation from the aggrieved directorate [waste management] had an engagement today [aimed] at addressing the impasse between the employee and employer.

“It’s unfortunate that the group elected to mount a protest when negotiations were still ongoing.

“We can, though, confirm that workers are back in their respective stations and the focus is on addressing the refuse collection backlog. Obviously there is a serious backlog of refuse collection and this will require an amount of work before the situation is normalised.”

After late night meetings yesterday, Nodongwe said there was no agreement reached between the parties, adding that “labour has tabled its grievances [and] the employer committed to respond by Wednesday”.

A shop steward at the Harrower Road depot, Michael Cokile, who was at yesterday’s meeting, said workers would return to work today.– Additional reporting by Devon Koen

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