Talks are under way to find a solution after the Msukaligwa municipality in Ermelo, Mpumalanga, fired 200 workers who went on an illegal strike.
The workers – who are members of the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) – had been staging sporadic strikes every pay day over the past five months. They were complaining about non-payment of overtime and other allowances.
Their action intensified on October 21 and they allegedly sabotaged the water and electricity supply to residents and businesses.
“We have laid a charge of sabotage with the police,” said Msukaligwa spokesperson, Mandla Zwane.
Mpumalanga police spokesperson, Brigadier Leonard Heath, confirmed that a case was opened but no one had been arrested.
“The workers are alleged to have interfered with the electricity and water systems to sabotage the municipality. Investigations are under way,” Hlathi said.
Zwane said that 80% of the dismissed workers were general workers, 15 % were in middle management and 5% were Samwu shop stewards.
“The sheriff has been serving them with dismissal letters this weeks. Every month towards pay day, they would complain about overtime payments. The strike intensified on October 21 and on October 27 we got a court order because their strike was illegal,” he said.
“We did not serve them with the order until last week Friday. They still continued with their illegal action and we had no choice but to dismiss them,” Zwane added.
The municipality and Samwu met today in order to find a solution.
Mpumalanga Samwu secretary, Saul Simelane, said he was hopeful that a solution would be found.
“We’re trying to negotiate and resolve the matter. We’ll communicate our decision after the meeting”, Simelane said.
However, Samwu said in a statement yesterday that the Msukaligwa municipality’s action was “harsh, unfair and illegal” because the workers did not undergo any disciplinary process.
The union said the workers went on strike because the municipality failed to pay third parties, including the workers’ union subscription fees, and also failed to provide them with protective equipment to do their jobs.
“We therefore call on the immediate and unconditional reinstatement of all workers otherwise we will be left with no choice by meeting the employer in court, including the streets,” Simelane said.