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eThekwini EPWP workers want permanent jobs, increases & security Gumede promised

Raising workplace issues results in threats of firing, say eThekwini Extended Public Works Programme workers.

Dozens of eThekwini municipal workers in KZN have arrived at the office of mayor Zandile Gumede, demanding she makes good on her promise to increase salaries on 16 May 2019. Picture: Nkosikhona Duma/EWN

DURBAN - eThekwini Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP) workers brought the Durban city centre at a standstill on Thursday morning as they marched to controversial Mayor Zandile Gumede's offices demanding permanent jobs, salary increases and job security that she has allegedly promised them since 2017.

"The Mayor [Zandile Gumede] promised us that there will be no one who will be fired from the EPWP and that there will be permanent jobs. However, nothing has happened to this effect," said Skhumbuzo Buthelezi, an EPWP worker and task team member of the protest.

Over 100 EPWP workers from the City's waste collection, community safety, water and sanitation units gathered outside the City Hall to hand over a Memorandum to Gumede demanding their absorption into the municipality and an increase from the R3 100 per month they claim to currently receive from the municipality.

But Sipho Hlophe - an eThekwini senior manager for EPWP - told agitated workers Gumede could not see them in fear of breaching her bail conditions.

The mayor is currently facing charges that she was part of a cabal that looted the City's coffers in excess of over R200 million.

Chaos is brewing in the City as it is still dealing with the aftermath of a strike by workers in the water and sanitation departments, which brought the City to a standstill and resulted in damage of over R4 million.

At the same time, at least four senior eThekwini officials, other than Gumede, were charged with tender corruption allegations and investigations into them continue.

The workers also alleged that eThekwini ward councillors, and by consequence the city council members, had unfettered power to appoint and dismiss EPWP workers.

The workers said this resulted in their intimidation by ward councillors, who often threatened to fire them if they raised any complaints in relation to their working conditions.

"We want councillors to stop having the power to appoint and influence the dismissal of EPWP workers. We demand those City officials take all the human resource management of EPWP workers," said Buthelezi.

A worker, who preferred to remain anonymous, said although EPWP workers were not politicians, the power that councillors have over the EPWP meant that many workers felt indebted to councillors and feared speaking out against bad working environments.

"As we speak, there are people who could not join us at today's march because they were threatened by ward councillors. We are tired. We are calling for Ward councillors to stop threatening and using us," said the worker.

"There are people who have been working in the EPWP programme since 2008 on month-to-month contracts which earned them R3 100 per month without discussion of ever being absorbed into the municipality," said the worker.

As part of their demands, the workers called for working in the EPWP to serve as entry-level employment at the municipality and that a full skills audit is conducted to identify those EPWP workers who had the necessary qualifications to take up higher positions in the municipality.

"We give the municipality seven days to respond to our memorandum and if they fail to respond, we will mobilise and show them how serious we are," said Sbu Mkhize, another EPWP worker and task team member of the march.

Hlophe in his capacity as a senior manager for the EPWP in eThekwini said the city would engage the task team members of the EPWP workers and would respond within the time frame given.

"We would like to state at this point that we commit to working with the eThekwini Municipal Academy to conduct a skills audit. We will also hold a workshop in a month's time to find out how we can absorb some of the workers in the EPWP programme," said Hlophe.

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