The striking workers are adamant that they will continue with the strike for insourcing that started in October.
The striking MyCiti bus project workers have indicated that they intend using the recent Constitutional Court judgement in favour of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa to challenge the City of Cape Town to insource them. In July this year, the Constitutional Court ruled that workers placed by labour brokers at a company automatically become employees of that company after three months. Workers working for transport companies as bus drivers, cleaners, ambassadors, security guards have been on an unprotected strike since the 15th of October. While the main demand is to be insourced by the City of Cape Town, the striking workers want equal pay for equal work.
The striking workers have been engaging with the City of Cape Town and the employers in spite of letters of dismissal they received via WhatsApp. Opposition parties in the council have also come out in support of the workers.
“We approached the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) so that they can assist with mediation between us and the companies but some of the companies sent lawyers and they told the commissioners that they have dismissed us and are not prepared to speak with us,” said one of the leaders of the strike, Sibongisile Mabindisa.
Mabindisa said that on the same day that they were meeting with the CCMA they were called into a meeting with the companies and the South African Road Passenger Bargaining Council. “That meeting also did not bear any fruit as it was an off-the-record meeting,” said Mabindisa.
Effects of the strike
Another of the strike leaders, Johannes Gordon, seemed ruefully resigned to his fate. “The reason the strike went on for a long time is that the City did not lend its ear to us. We went on strike with the intention of handing a memorandum and go back the next day but the City made that impossible for us and they are the reason we have been dismissed adding more to the high unemployment rate in the country,” he said.
According to Gordon, since they have been dismissed they are struggling to trace their provident fund monies.
“One person here is responsible for eight people or more and so you can imagine the impact the strike has had on our families and relatives,” said Mabindisa.
The number of striking workers protesting at the Civic Centre, where they have been gathering for the past three weeks, has been dwindling, Mabindisa explained, because they lack the means to get there. “They are refusing us to use the MyCiti bus and that means people can only use the train or taxis to come here,” he said.
Burning of buses
According to the City of Cape Town spokesperson, Luthando Tyhalibongo, three MyCiti buses have been “torched and burnt out since the start of the wildcat strike, and another two buses damaged in similar attacks.” The incidents are being investigated by the South African Police Services.
Asked if they are involved in the burning of the buses as insinuated in media reports this week, Mabindisa told Elitsha that they would not destroy something that they work with and they have proven to the detractors that they are disciplined in that they have remained peaceful throughout the strike. “Why would we destroy the very thing that we work with. The buses and the infrastructure belong to the City of Cape Town and the vehicle operating companies but we are the ones using them. We are not criminals and the burning of buses cannot be associated with us. The police must investigate and the law must take its course,” said Mabindisa.
One bus was torched in Kuyasa in Khayelitsha on Thursday. According to eye witnesses, the bus started to burn at around 5 in the morning.
“I came to open my shop at about 5:30 and it was already burning at that time. The fires were raging and it affected my shop and I now have to fork out about R2,000 to fix the side that was affected,” said Asante Nkwame who runs a barbershop and tailorshop from a container opposite the bus station where the bus burned. Another eyewitness added that “there were lots of spectators.”
The City spokesperson said that it will take about R13-million to repair the burnt buses.