Workers under Creecy’s “cleaning and greening” project demand unpaid wages

Nelson Mandela Bay ward councillor pens letter in support of workers’ demands

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Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Ward 5 Councillor Terri Stander (DA) protests with workers employed by the Municipal Cleaning and Greening Programme launched in Motherwell by Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environmental Affairs Barbara Creecy. Photos: Thamsanqa Mbovane

Disgruntled workers employed by the Municipal Cleaning and Greening Programme (MCGP) launched by Minister for Forestry, Fisheries and Environmental Affairs Barbara Creecy protested on Thursday. They were demanding unpaid wages, and that they be provided with cleaning items such as gloves.

About 50 workers dressed in blue overalls held placards and chanted outside a council meeting of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality in Gqeberha.

The workers work in wards 1, 2, 5, 16 and 40 to help the municipality improve its waste collection, ensure landfill compliance and promote recycling.

Creecy made a speech about the employment programme in Motherwell on 10 November. It is in partnership with provinces and municipalities, who assist in recruiting public works participants for the programme, provide protective clothing and cleaning materials.

Creecy’s department (DFFE) pays them their stipends.

She also said her department would assist the municipality to find the budget to purchase a specialised fleet for waste collection.

On Thursday, workers who say they had been on the job since October said they had not been paid.

The workers told GroundUp that they work eight hours a day at R16 per hour.

They complained that they have been picking up human faeces without gloves.

A worker, who did not want to be named, said, “The MCGP is a national programme. We only received uniforms on the day that the minister was here in this city.”

Ward 5 Councillor Terri Stander (DA) arrived and sang with the protesting workers before going into the council chambers.

She told GroundUp that she has been fighting for workers stationed at Harrower Road depot.

In a letter sent to the municipality, the province and to Creecy’s office on 27 November, Stander wrote: “My participants [from ward 5] approached me a number of times to ask when they would be paid. No answer was available to my office despite numerous requests. They started ‘working’ on or about the beginning of November. They did, however, sign the daily attendance registers from 9 October 2023.”

Stander asked for clarity on the amount that the Harrower Road workers are to be paid for the period from 2 October to 31 October.

Municipal spokesperson Mthubanzi Mniki promised he would escalate the workers’ complaints to the relevant department.

DFFE spokesperson Peter Mbelengwa said, “The Department is responsible for project management and paying the stipends, UIF and COID. The municipalities are required to provide full PPE, tools of trade and administer medicals before the participants start operations.

“Accordingly, the roles and responsibilities of the DFFE and the NMBM are outlined in the signed Memorandum of Understanding, which was concluded before the recruitment of the participants.”

He said the DFFE and municipality had informed the participants of the conditions of service and emphasised that they would only be paid for work done.

“Although contracts were signed with participants, those that were not provided with PPE by the municipality were informed that they would not be able to work. They started working once the municipality issued them with PPE in November.

“On the principle that no work equates to no pay, there was no payment due to the participants for October as they had not worked. They will only be paid for work done in November,” he said.

Workers from the Harrower Road depot protested on Thursday demanding unpaid wages and PPE.

Update on 2023-12-11 15:45

This article has been updated with a response from DFFE spokesperson Peter Mbelengwa.

TOPICS:  Labour

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