Dumpsite workers go on strike in Pietermaritzburg

Rubbish trucks dump garbage at entrance

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photo of a rubbish truck
Rubbish trucks are being prevented from entering the New England landfill site in Pietermaritzburg. Photo: Nompendulo Ngubane

Workers at the New England Landfill site in Pietermaritzburg went on strike on Thursday. Rubbish trucks were blocked from accessing the dumpsite, so they dumped garbage in the street and at the entrance.

The landfill workers say they have a list of concerns that have been ignored for years. “We are tired of being invisible,” said Mlungisi Zondi, who has been working at the dumpsite for over 30 years.

Zondi, who drives a trash compactor, said working conditions had been become unbearable. “Instead of things getting better, they are worse … The available machinery has become dangerous … It has become unsafe to work inside the dumpsite … The job we do is risky. We’ve been complaining for years to no avail,” said Zondi.

A worker, who did not want t give her name, said the site was short-staffed. “Some of the employees have retired; some have passed on. The management is aware of that, but they are not hiring. One person ends up doing a lot of work because of the shortage of staff. We are not even getting enough pay for what we do … We are not amateurs … We have been working here over a decade. We are experienced workers who deserve respect,” she said.

She said a major issue was overtime pay, but she did not specify exactly what the problem was.

“As you can see, there is garbage everywhere,” said the driver of a truck dumping waste. “We can’t go inside; the workers are angry. We can’t force ourselves in. We just stop and empty the waste at the gate. There is nothing we can do. They are fighting for their rights. We do what we are told. Angry people are dangerous.”

However, waste pickers were grateful for the strike. “It’s Christmas for us,” said Zanele Dlamini from Sobantu. “At least we are not walking a long distance to the dumpsite. We [usually] collect our things and put them outside the gate. When another truck comes, we collect again. It’s a pity that there is rubbish everywhere. It is smelling. If you walk down the road you will see the waste all over. Christmas comes once a year. Walking from the dumpsite is tiring when one is carrying heavy loads. At least we pick closer to the exit [now],” said Dlamini.

When GroundUp visited the site, management was holding a meeting.

Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said the municipality is aware of the current situation. “The strike is about the overtime issues. The situation is normalizing as the management is dealing with the matter,” Mafumbatha said.

TOPICS:  Labour Sanitation

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