Ugu warns of possible supply interruption after Samwu talks deadlock

Samwu secretary Phila Madwe (left) and chairman, Mthandeni Ngcobo at a press briefing earlier this week.

For days, Ugu District Municipality had denied having problems with its staff, issuing statement after statement saying all was well and that workers had not downed tools.

Numerous calls had been received from residents, asking Ugu to explain why they had had no water for days and had received messages claiming the municipality’s staff had downed tools.

Initially, Ugu had said the information being circulated was fake.

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However, following the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) press briefing on Tuesday this week, Ugu yesterday (Wednesday) issued a statement admitting it had been unable to reach consensus with Samwu on various health and safety issues.

This Ugu van has a window missing.

According to Samwu, Ugu had failed to comply with some of the concerns raised by workers, one of which was condition of the vehicles they had been using to travel to work with.

The workers want double cab vehicles which would allow them to pack away their equipment and provide seats for the teams of five which attend to call-outs.

Currently, the municipality provided single cab vans, forcing the workers to share space with tools which could include spades, pick-axes, pipes, boots, and toolboxes.

Samwu chairman Mthandeni Ngcobo said they had offered Ugu management a one-day experience in the vans, which management had turned down, saying ‘riding with such equipment is no different from committing suicide’.

“If they refuse to share space with the equipment, why should we?” he asked.

Ugu workers have put sponges in the vans to protect themselves

According to Samwu, Ugu was aware of these problems but had chosen to turn a blind eye.

“According to our policy prescriptions, petrol vans should have an odometer reading of not more than 150 000 km, diesel vans not more than 250 000 km and trucks should not exceed 300 000 km, but some of our vans have more than 300 000 km on the clock – how is this allowed? Why are workers’ lives put at risk?”

Despite these concerns, Ugu had reportedly gone ahead and procured a new fleet of single cab vans.

This had angered workers who said their grievances were not being taken seriously. They had also asked why officials who had nothing to do with repairing burst pipes or water leaks had been given double cab vans.

Samwu secretary, Phila Madwe said there were numerous officials – including some in the municipal manager’s office – who had been issued double cabs they were not using effectively.

An Ugu van with tools and buckets for workers to sit on

The workers also claimed that a number of workers had been injured by tools while travelling to and from jobs.

“There is one worker who lost his ear. Several others have also been hurt while others have been bitten by snakes,” he said.

Ugu warns of disruptions

Ugu had since issued a statement warning of possible water supply interruptions following its failure to reach agreement with the workers.

According to Ugu spokesman, France Zama, negotiations between the municipality and the union had deadlocked after the municipality had, he said, made every effort to meet the union’s demands of ensuring that safety concerns were resolved.

“Despite all these efforts, the union leadership resorted to engaging in dramatics and acts of brinkmanship. The municipality is currently exploring all available legal options to ensure that law and order is restored,” he added.

Samwu workers had also threatened to strike if their demands were not met.

However, Ugu said it was ready to use all its available resources to ensure that the impact of service delivery interruptions within its communities was minimised.

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  AUTHOR
Zimasa Mgwili
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