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Cemetery workers threaten to strike

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“The toilets are blocked and dirty and we have to go to the veld to relieve ourselves. We encounter poisonous snakes when we go to the veld.”

Picture: Supplied

WORKERS employed at the West End, Roodepan, ABC and Ritchie cemeteries intend embarking on a strike from next week and have warned that relatives would be left to bury their loved ones themselves.

A meeting was held with management this week regarding the non-payment of overtime, upgrading of salaries, bonuses for digging and danger pay allowances.

“We work six days a week and our overtime schedules were scratched out by the cemetery manager. Many of us have been working for 25 years at the cemeteries on the same salary grade. There are seven workers stationed at each cemetery where we are expected to dig graves, maintain the cemetery and do driving duties,” they said.

The workers added that there has been no water at the Ritchie Cemetery since 2001.

“The toilets are blocked and dirty and we have to go to the veld to relieve ourselves. We encounter poisonous snakes when we go to the veld.”

Cemetery workers stated that they had to share overalls as there were not enough. “There is no protective clothing and safety gear and we have to wear our own shoes.”

South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) shop steward, Joseph Williams, indicated that the full-blown strike action would commence as soon as they had received a strike certificate.

“Up until then we will be at our posts. We applied for a strike certificate on Tuesday.”

He believed that the cemetery manager should be removed by council.

Communications manager at Sol Plaatje Municipality, Sello Matsie, indicated that all cemetery workers had received protective clothing in July, except for two workers that needed a suitable size.

“A meeting was held to address and resolve their issues. The new workers who were appointed in October were also provided with protective clothing in line with the health and safety compliance. All workers sign for receipt of protective clothing every time they receive their issues annually, and such proof is kept safely.”

Matsie explained that Ritchie was experiencing a general problem with the water supply to residential areas.

“This is being taken seriously by the municipality and is being addressed through bulk infrastructure supply. A water tanker at the cemetery is currently being used to supply water to the ablution blocks and drinking water containers were recently bought to supply potable drinking water.”

Matsie added that danger allowances were being addressed but could unfortunately only be negotiated at the Local Labour Forum (LLF) level.

“Digging allowances are being paid and a request for an increase has been made by the workers, and still has to be negotiated through the collective bargaining processes.”

Matsie indicated that overtime was being paid.

“Payments that were withheld were as a result of miscommunication and were resolved. Two workers who are performing light duties as a result of their ill-health were asked not to work overtime on weekends because work performed over the weekend is strictly hard labour which they cannot perform. They insist on working overtime whilst they have no work to do and cannot be paid for that, bearing in mind that working overtime is not a right or benefit and cannot be demanded.”