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Workers protest ‘unsafe’ legislature

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“This demonstration is not political. It is all about the health and safety of our members.”

UNHAPPY: Staff members at the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature yesterday protested outside the building to raise concerns regarding health and safety issues. Picture: Danie van der Lith

WORKERS at the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature downed tools yesterday in protest of what they termed unsafe working conditions.

“We are putting our lives on the line every time we enter the building, which is still a construction site. When we say goodbye to our families in the morning, there is absolutely no guarantee that we will return home in the evenings,” National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) spokesperson Ntsikelelo Tshanelu said yesterday.

Earlier this year the acting executive manager of committees, research and information services, public education and communications, Nathalia Borchard, explained that not all repair and renovation work on the building had been completed to “absolute satisfaction”.

This was after two years of repairs and refurbishments, which cost R37 million and was aimed at fixing various structural, electrical, plumbing and other problems.

The Department of Labour had issued a prohibition notice in 2016 on the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature due to the unexplained flooding of the basement, electrical hazards, plumbing, collapsing roofs and leaks.

Yesterday, workers demanded that a safety inspector and the Department of Labour perform an inspection of the building.

“We have raised concerns over not only the fact that certain areas of the building are still a construction site, but that there are also various other health hazards, for instance the toilets, the fire extinguishers that haven’t been serviced and the fact that there is only one fire exit. We are here to work, not to put ourselves in any danger.”

Tshanelu added that the female workers were most at risk. “You should see the state of the bathrooms. What they don’t realise is that it will cost more if we pick up diseases and are booked off.”

He added that yesterday’s demonstration was a peaceful one to draw attention to their plight. “This demonstration is not political. It is all about the health and safety of our members.”

Secretary at the legislature, Patrick Moopelwa, said that they were addressing the worker’s concerns.

“We are aware of the issues raised. We have had meetings with the stakeholders. We now call on the union representatives to work with us and go through the building to highlight all the issues and concerns so we can sort them out.”

Moopelwa added that they were dealing with the complaints regarding the toilets.

“Workers also raised concern about some offices that do not have air conditioners or proper ventilation. We are sorting that out too. We are not shifting the goalpost. The issues will be addressed.”