Drama as Market Theatre staff picket over pay

Members of the UASA protest outside of the Market Theater demanding their money.
Members of the UASA protest outside of the Market Theater demanding their money.
Image: KABELO MOKOENA

Matters came to a head yesterday at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg as staff members downed tools in protest for better salaries.

Sowetan has previously reported on strained relations between workers, management and the board at the iconic cultural institution.

The staff have raised grievances of favouritism, nepotism, low salaries and racism against the CEO.

On Monday morning, at least 100 staff members shut down the theatre by singing and dancing outside their office.

Dressed in white United Association of South Africa (Uasa) T-shirts, the group picketed as their representatives engaged with management in a closed meeting for at least two hours.

Protesting employees included the admin, front desk and technical staff and a few administration staff from the Windybrow Theatre, which shares the same management.

The group raised concerns of annual salary increments, payment of a 13th cheque, housing subsidies, medical aid, long service awards and internal vacancies.

"Members demand that the employer do away with a tendency of appointing staff members to act in certain vacant positions and once the need to appoint someone on a full-time basis [arises], then an individual employee who acted in the position is overlooked and ultimately appoints an external person," the memorandum reads.

Employees also raised concerns that there were salary differences between staff based on their race or relationships with management.

"CEO's close friends sit at the Market Theatre council. How can they be objective?" read a poster held by a protester.

The employees' shop steward Thato Kobile told Sowetan employees decided to protest to get management to grant their demands. "The main thing for us is to secure people's positions, that a guaranteed 13th cheque will be one of the benefits."

Kobile said the employer did not pay medical aid.

"As it stands at the Market Theatre we have pension funds as well as some staff [high earners] who can afford medical aid but everyone else does not afford it," she said.

Kobile said they had an agreement with management of a 5% salary increase and were promised that other concerns would be looked into.

Market Theatre Foundation CEO Ismail Mahomed said: "Staff had downed tools this morning while the union and management were in continued negotiations. Management, with the approval of the council of the Market Theatre Foundation, have conceded to a guaranteed 13th cheque this year. the workers were back at their desks by lunchtime."

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