Strikers dismissed

Kea' Modimoeng

Kea' Modimoeng

Mbombela stadium will not meet its April completion deadline after construction firm Basil Read dismissed about 400 workers following an illegal strike.

Mbombela, in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, is one of the stadiums currently under construction for next year's FIFA Soccer World Cup.

Eugene du Toit, spokesperson for Mbombela Stadium Joint Venture, said yesterday progress was derailed by illegal strikes throughout the construction period.

The current strike at Mbombela is in its third week, and, according to du Toit, workers are "demanding a R70000 bonus fee each because the project is nearing completion".

Du Toit said: "The construction process has been hit by a lot of unprotected strikes most of which were over wages and the land deal which is facilitated by the municipality."

He said the first illegal strike was in December 2007 and it was agreed that any illegal industrial action would result in dismissals. "They participated in another illegal strike last year June over bonus payments and we dismissed them.

"We later reinstated them under another agreement that they will never engage in an illegal strike," he said.

Du Toit emphasised that no worker would be reinstated this time around.

"None of the striking workers will be reinstated or will have anything to do on site," he said.

Asked when the stadium would be ready, du Toit said: "November 2009 sounds (like) a realistic time for completion."

Mmatsatsi Marobe, chief executive of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa, said: "People should manage their labour relations better, we have the world watching us and we can't afford any more delays."

She said completion in November was still "fine" because there would still be about six months before the event.

Lesiba Seshoka, spokesman of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which also represents workers in the construction industry, said the company should be careful when dealing with this issue.

"The NUM condemns this illegal strike, but the company also needs to continuously engage its workers," he said.

He added that a "big problem" would arise if the company employed labour from outside the community to occupy positions of dismissed workers of that community.

"Employing people from outside the community will be a source of fire. Clearly the company doesn't have a lot of experience in labour relations and our advice is that it should exercise extreme caution," he said.

The company said non-striking workers were busy on the construction site.