The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) in the Johannesburg Region is agitated by the DA-led City of Johannesburg’s anti-worker approach which has been adopted by the City. The City has been on a crusade to victimise workers while pleasing residents as to be seen as doing something about service delivery.
In Mid-February, the acting City Manager issued a memo to the JRA which emphasised a previous request by the City calling for an end to the rotational system that has been in place. The rotational system was put in place to ensure the health and safety of workers at JRA in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. The acting City Manager went further to declare JRA an essential service without consulting labour or the presents of any essential service agreement.
As SAMWU we are not vehemently opposed to the full return of workers but rather the manner this is done particularly given the challenges faced by the agency. To begin with, JRA cannot call for a full return of workers when it knows very well that it does not have the capacity to ensure compliance with the Disaster Management Act and the directives from the Department of Labour. Currently, JRA is failing to provide workers with mere sanitisers for the employees who are working on a rotational basis, what will happen when all workers return to work?
Secondly, JRA is perpetually failing to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, by subjecting workers to be crammed in the transport that they provide for workers from the depots to the sites that they are deployed to and back. Furthermore, the fleet owned by JRA is not sufficient for the operations needed, in some instances, workers are forced to move around the streets of Johannesburg in wheelbarrows as the City is unable to transport the workers while some of the available vehicles are not licensed without license disks nor roadworthy certificates.
We are also agitated by the employer’s decision to, out of its own accord decide to designate the JRA as an essential service. Designating a workplace as essential has a variety of implications and as such the decision cannot be willy nilly adopted by an employer. Our silence on the matter will result in precedents that will be set and as such, we cannot allow the employer to illegally and unlawfully change workers’ conditions of employment.
As a union, we have also taken issue with the apparent interference of the work of the administration of the City by the Executive in particular MMCs. In a myriad of tweets, the City’s MMC for Transport Cllr Funzela Ngobeni has been instructing workers to return to work while also indicating that there will be no negotiation of the request by the City for a stop of the rotational system. We need not to remind Cllr Ngobeni that his is a political role over the department and as such he should not in any way be seen as giving instructions to workers, there are people who are employed by the JRA whose responsibility it is to give instructions.
We urge Cllr Ngobeni to do right by residents of Johannesburg and play the oversight role that he is supposed to. In fact Cllr Ngobeni should keep to the promises her made to residents that he would root out corruption in the department when we was installed in as MMC for Transport. Contrary to what Cllr Ngobeni promised, six senior officials at the agency who were suspended for their involvement in more than R418 million in irregular expenditure have mysteriously returned to work under his watch.
As SAMWU, we are committed to working with the City in ensuring that residents of Johannesburg receive the much-needed services particularly in ensuring that potholes are eradicated, giving residents safe roads. We however will not allow workers to be bullied into submission of unilateral changes of their conditions of service or by putting workers’ lives at risk.
We further want to see the clear separation between the political office bearers and the administration. The law is very clear on the role that each of the two are supposed to play in delivering services to residents. We therefore cannot allow the encroaching on administrative responsibilities by the politicians in the City.
Issued by SAMWU Greater Johannesburg Region
Thobani Nkosi, Deputy Regional Secretary, (066 290 2134), Ester Mtatyana, Regional Chairperson, (072 120 3484) or Mwabisi Langa, Deputy Chairperson, (079 491 2398).