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EPWP workers trash civic centre

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The EPWP workers are calling for their programmes to be absorbed by the Sol Plaatje Municipality (SPM), a minimum wage and backpay

DEMANDS: EPWP workers yesterday marched to the Sol Plaatje Municipality. Danie van der Lith

EXPANDED Public Works Programme (EPWP) workers, who trashed the civic centre yesterday morning and were blamed for the cancellation of yesterday’s Sol Plaatje City Council meeting, have vowed to continue disrupting services in the city today.

The group of around 100 EPWP workers, however, denied making any threats that would compromise the safety of councillors attending yesterday’s special meeting.

A notice was sent to councillors shortly before the start of the meeting that, at the request of the acting Speaker, the council meeting would be postponed due to safety risks following threats by EPWP workers.

The protesting EPWP workers are expected to be joined by local community health care workers (CHWs) today and have vowed to disrupt services until they are offered permanent employment.

Dozens of EPWP workers spent much of yesterday camped in front of the main entrance of the municipal offices and are expected to return this morning, joined by other members of the South African Liberated Public Service Workers’ Union (Salipswu), including the CHWs, on an industrial strike.

Among their demands, the EPWP workers are calling for their programmes to be absorbed by the Sol Plaatje Municipality (SPM), a minimum wage and backpay.

In a statement handed over at the municipal offices yesterday morning, the workers pointed out that, while the minimum wage was R3 500, they were currently earning R90 per day while mostly working on projects for the SPM.

“We are asking the municipality to meet us halfway,” they said.

“EPWP workers in Cape Town were appointed permanently so why can’t the Sol Plaatje EPWP workers also be permanently employed?” read the statement. It also questioned why the salaries of project co-ordinators had been increased, from R5 400 to R7 500 per month, yet their daily rate had remained unchanged.

Meanwhile, according to Salipswu provincial organiser, Thapelo Thole, nothing was resolved by yesterday’s protest at the municipality, adding that this mass action had instead spawned the allegation that the union members posed a threat to municipal staff.

This allegation, in turn, resulted in the postponement of yesterday’s scheduled council meeting.

Salipswu represents approximately 700 local EPWP workers along with 2 600 CHWs in the Northern Cape, who have made similar demands for a minimum wage and the absorption of their programmes into the provincial Department of Health (DOH).

“Like the CHWS, the EPWP workers are demanding R3 500 per month, with backpay,” Thole said. “However, in both cases nothing has been resolved and they (SPM) are now claiming that we are threatening them.

“No threats were made but a decision has been taken for the EPWP workers and CHWs to join forces on an industrial strike from tomorrow, which will see the disruption of various services.

“We intend to include all our members in the district.”

During their protest yesterday, the EPWP workers strew rubbish and broken bottles around the municipal offices and even smashed computer parts.

They blocked the main entrance to the building, where members of the public pay their accounts. A skip was also used to block the road in front of the offices.