Stadium workers are fired every day

PHAKAMA James is six months pregnant and has been working as a cleaner at Johannesburg's Soccer City Stadium, but as the Soccer World Cup draws closer and the structure nears completion she faces an uncertain future.

PHAKAMA James is six months pregnant and has been working as a cleaner at Johannesburg's Soccer City Stadium, but as the Soccer World Cup draws closer and the structure nears completion she faces an uncertain future.

The 32-year-old mother of two, who lives with her grandmother in Diepkloof Ext 6, was hired in August 2009 and paid R80 for each 11-hour shift.

On Tuesday she went to Soccer City Stadium to work. By the end of the day she was unemployed. She was one of many picked from a group of job hopefuls at the building site's entrance and employed without signing a contract.

"I've seen people lose their jobs every day," James says. "Today it's me. We were told the contractor had completed his job so we should leave after work.

"But what confuses me is that 10 other people were asked to work a double shift. So how can they be asked to do that if our contractor is finished?"

James is one of the many workers who have fallen through the cracks of what labour unions say is poor employment planning in stadium construction for the Soccer World Cup.

National Union of Mineworkers' spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka felt the construction companies were profiting at the expense of their workers.

"The people who have made a lot of money are the big construction companies," Seshoka says.

"About 70 percent of construction workers are on limited contracts. We've done our best to talk to companies to place them in other public sector contracts."

Building and Wood Workers International coordinator Eddie Cottle said the government, as funder of the construction, had failed to use the project to create meaningful employment.

"In total 22 000 jobs were created," he says. "Noting the figures of main contractors, their core staff constitute the minority of workers."

He says the government is in a position to set up an employment strategy to ensure that decent and sustainable jobs are created but this is not done.

Qualified bricklayer Mpho Muvhoni, 28, is one of the more fortunate Soccer City workers since he is employed on a contract. But seeing his colleagues lose their jobs on a daily basis has left him doubting the security of his job.

"People get fired every day," he says. "If they've worked three days they give them their three days' wages and order them to leave the stadium immediately."

According to Cottle, of the 2200 workers at Soccer City only 100 were trained and offered permanent jobs with the main contractor.

"Most of the workers employed in the building of stadiums are vulnerable workers."

BWI, union federation Cosatu and other trade unions have made an agreement with Fifa and the government that all workers employed for 18 months should be permanently placed with the main contractors. But they are dragging their feet, Cottle claimed.

The Department of Public Works and Fifa's Local Organising Committee would not respond to queries.

Spokesperson for construction company Murray and Roberts, Eduard Jordim, said it was difficult to give workers permanent jobs.

"In construction most of the workers will only be needed once you have the contract," he said. "You hire on a daily basis." - Sapa

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