Garbage piles up as workers stay away

THE leadership of the cash-strapped Msunduzi municipality in Pietermaritzburg has apologised to workers, pleading with them to return to work immediately.

Rubbish has been piling up in the streets of the KwaZulu-Natalcapital city for the past nine days.

This is after workers stayed away and demanded to be paid overtime. They also demanded that mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo and her executive council municipality manager Rob Haswell be sacked.

The council has been in the spotlight following revelations of its bad financial problems that have led provincial MEC Nomusa Dube to intervene.

Dube has appointed three financial experts to devise a turn-around strategy for the council.

Addressing hundreds of workers gathered at Harry Gwala Stadium yesterday, Hlatshwayo pleaded with the workers to return to work and not allow themselves to be used.

"We have no idea why this strike is on," Hlatshwayo said.

"We have not seen the workers' grievances. We only hear that workers are demanding to be paid for working overtime. But as the exco, we have never refused to pay," Hlatshwayo said.

The municipality is in debt to the tune of more than R564million.

The council has also lost more than R60million through illegal electricity connections and large industries have failed to pay their water and electricity accounts.

Hlatshwayo said that in October 2008 the council took a resolution that overtime exceeding the stipulated 40 hours a month would not be paid.

"We asked Rob Haswell to inform other managers but it did not happen.

"People continue to claim exorbitantly. The overtime budget of R36million was finished six months ago, before time," she said.

Hlatshwayo said the task team deployed to assist the municipality needed time to do its work.

She said an official deployed by national Treasury collected R70million owed to them in January alone.

"The money that we have is to service our debt and pay workers."

Hlatshwayo warned they would soon apply the no work, no pay principle if people did not go back to work.

"We agreed that it is unfair not to pay workers overtime, because it was not their fault but that of management.

"And we agreed to pay for January and February and the MEC authorised that," she said.