EPWP workers in Orange Farm strike for better working conditions

Pic by Dibuseng Phaloane

Launched in 2004, the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) is a nationwide programme that gives short-term employment covering all spheres of government and state-owned enterprises. But there are serious problems with it.

EPWP workers in Orange Farm went on strike recently demanding better working conditions. Workers woke up in the early cold morning, wore their orange overalls and gathered at Stretford train station to go to Johannesburg to Department of Public Works to demand answers from the officials. Workers were demanding an end to super exploitation and being taken advantage of because those in power know how desperate they are as young people.

One of the workers who wanted to remain anonymous because of fear and intimidation said their grievances include unfair labour practices, working long hours without been paid overtime, being forced to pay a R300 fee for renewal of their contracts. The workers also claimed that a R100 was deducted from their May salaries  without any notice or explanation.

The majority of EPWP workers in Orange farm are young people who were promised skills and development from the programme but so far they have only been cutting grass. Orange Farm is part of the City of Johannesburg Metro and was established in late the 80’s and its original inhabitants were farm workers who were laid off following the removal of state support. The settlement now includes a modern library, a few paved roads, permanent housing for some, electricity in some areas, 4 clinics and more than 20 high schools. According to the latest statistics in the SA Quarterly Labour Force Survey, unemployment in the City of Johannesburg  stands at 26,7%.

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The majority of young people regardless of their qualifications are unemployed. There is also high rates of pregnancy, school dropouts and drug and alcohol abuse.

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