Workers demand better pay and permanent jobs

ABOUT 77 municipal workers from Mohlakeng in Randfontein on the West Rand are crying foul over what they say are unfulfilled promises made by council officials.

The workers were fuming after they were givenfour-month contracts as opposed to the permanent contracts they were apparently "promised" by officials when they first joined the municipality as cleaners.

The workers' wages have also been reduced from R2300 to R1800.

The workers had signed their new contracts for the R600000 beautification project on February 9 after their previous contracts with the municipality were terminated in December because of lack of funds. A South African Municipal Workers' Union representative declined to comment on why the union had agreed to such a deal.

He said the matter was not meant for the media. Despite telling him that Sowetan had spoken to the workers earlier, the official would not divulge any information and abruptly dropped the phone in mid conversation.

Most of the workers have been contract employees in the council for more than five years and, as a result, were disappointed by municipality's new offer.

One of the workers Mariah Nozima of Mohlakeng lamented the municipality's "underhandedness".

She said: "We have been working as contract workers for more than five years and this is what they give us?

"We deserve better than this. Most of us won't be able to survive on these low salaries.

"What are we supposed to do when the contracts expired in four months' time."

Another worker Magdeline Mosielele said they had been assured by the municipality that they would be taken on a permanent basis. She said this has been happening in the past with the other contracted workers.

However, Randfontein executive mayor Zeph Mhlongo dismissed the workers' claims.

"There are thousands of unemployed people in our townships," Mhlongo said.

"We have a responsibility to create job opportunities so that everyone would be able to get a chance to acquire new skills through the municipality's extended public works programmes."

The mayor also denied that the municipality had ever promised or alluded to taking on the remaining 77 workers on a permanent basis.

Mhlongo said: "Our agreement with them was that we would employ them on contract basis should the opportunities arise. At no point did we make promises of full-time employment."