BUKUTA NKUNA and ISAAC RAMOTHWALA
WORKERS affiliated to the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) have downed tools in Thabazimbi as they demand protective clothing to carry out their duties.
The workers have been staging sit in for the past two weeks, vowing not to return to work until their demands are met. The union is calling for protective clothing for those mainly in the Electrical and Traffic Departments.
SAMWU’s provincial secretary Patrick Aphane said workers decided to withdraw their labour due to the lack of proper tools of trade.
“The main issue is that workers do not have protective clothing and they have decided to withdraw their labour in terms of the occupational health act. Because if an employer does not give you protective clothing, you have the right not to work under such conditions,” he said.
Aphane added that although the sit in continues, workers were reporting for work but were not handling their daily tasks as required by their employer.
“They are reporting at work on a daily basis but they just cannot work because they are not protected,” he said.
Aphane said the union has engaged the municipality over the matter and they were now waiting on the delivery of the clothing. He said the municipality promised to attend to the issue as a matter of urgency.
“So we are still waiting for them in order to seek a way forward. But it should be noted that we will not accept anything either than initiatives that will protect the lives of workers,” said Aphane.
Thabazimbi Municipal Manager Johannes Matlou said previous financial difficulties had led to the shortages of equipment. He said they were, however, working on addressing the matter.
“We have had a meeting with these people who do not have Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) yesterday and we told them that we will have those clothes available in a space of four days. This is not a strike, we also understand that they cannot work without these protective clothes so just report for work and sit until we get them protective clothes. The problem started four years ago when the municipality had financial problems, but now things are heading in the right direction, we are getting things right,” said Matlou.