Ugu District Municipality is on the verge of calling for provincial and national government intervention as it is unable to provide water due to labour unrest.
So said municipal manager DD Naidoo, speaking at a press briefing held at Ugu yesterday (Wednesday) where he also revealed plans to have the municipality declared a disaster area as soon as possible.
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He added that a letter to this effect had yesterday been drafted and would be sent to provincial government, which may in turn take it to national government.
Mr Naidoo said the municipality would also be taking action against staff who were currently embarked on an illegal strike, as denying people their basic human right to clean water was unacceptable.
“We have applied for a court interdict to get all those employees not on duty to report to work. Failure to obey this court order will result in workers being dismissed.”
In the interim, Ugu had had to hire alternative service providers to try and ensure water supply is restored, which was costing the already cash-strapped municipality money it can ill afford to spend.
“Water tankers have also been outsourced for hospitals and schools, and this is also costing us a lot of money,” said Mr Naidoo.
Yesterday, Port Shepstone Regional Hospital was reportedly left with no water due to alleged tampering, and those living in areas from as far north as Hibberdene right down to Port Edward and inland have been left high and dry.
Businesses in Marburg and other areas have also been badly affected, Mr Naidoo said.
The strike, according to Mr Naidoo, was called because management had resolved to implement stringent cost cutting measures at the municipality.
These measures included cutting overtime costs and implementing the ‘no work no pay’ policy in order to keep the municipality financially afloat.
“Letters were written to South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) leaders notifying them of our intention to deduct money for the illegal strikes which took place in November 2017 and in March this year.
“The leaders did not respond, so the municipality went ahead and issued notices to employees before deducting the money.”
Mr Naidoo said management had acted in accordance with the Labour Relations Act which stated that employers may implement a no work, no pay policy.
After several union meetings, Samwu members reportedly stormed the Ugu offices on Monday last week, demanding to speak to Mr Naidoo.
“They interrupted a meeting with stakeholders from province and other local municipalities and verbally abused management, even though they were told several times to leave,” Mr Naidoo said.
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On Wednesday last week, all 11 leaders were issued with a letter of intention to suspend them for misconduct.
They had reportedly been given time to state why they should not be suspended, but had apparently failed to do so.
“The union wants things to be done on their terms, and they also threatened us,” Mr Naidoo said.
Mr Naidoo added he was ‘very concerned’ because consumers were being held to ransom by people who were putting themselves first.
“Factories in Marburg are threatening to close shop or relocate because this is not good for their business. What about all those employees who rely on their jobs to feed their families?” he asked.
“Communities have nothing to do with our internal issues, so why must they suffer? What if someone died at the hospital because there was no water?”
The ANC Lower South Coast also said it was deeply concerned and issued a stern warning to those who were deliberately hampering water service delivery.
Spokesman Selvan Chetty said they were disappointed by Samwu senior members who had encouraged members to embark on an illegal strike.
“We call on Ugu to involve law enforcement agencies and arrest employees who tamper with the system,” Mr Chetty said.
The union claims that Ugu management was corrupt, responsible for orchestrating labour unrest, and was hiring unbudgeted for contractors and private security guards at an exorbitant cost to the municipality.
In addition, Samwu accused management of making illegal appointments to senior positions at Ugu, and of refusing to meet with them.
However Mr Naidoo encouraged union members to approach the public protector or the police if they had evidence of corrupt activities taking place at the municipality.
Marburg resident Jaiden Moodley said Ugu employees should not expect sympathy from communities because no matter how valid their concerns were, using the people as a bargaining tool was out of order.
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