People urged to stay away from city centre

Monday, July 27, 2009

Pretoria - Johannesburg Metro police have urged people to stay away from the city centre ahead of the threatened municipal workers strike on Monday.

"We reiterate our plea that if you don't need to be in the CBD, please stay in your offices until at least 2pm," Johannesburg Metro Police Department spokesperson Edna Mamonyane told BuaNews.

She said police were monitoring the situation but that no major incidents have been reported so far, adding that pickets have started in some parts of the city.

"Our members are on high alert and we hope to make sure the action is kept as peaceful as possible," she said.

More than 150 000 municipal workers are set to down tools and municipal services countrywide are set to be disrupted.

The workers are demanding a 15 percent wage increase.

The strike may affect refuge collection and traffic services, but efficient services such as police and emergency work will not be affected by the mass action, according to the South African Local Government Association (SALGA).

SALGA hinted in a statement that attempts to find a negotiated settlement to the wage dispute between the employer body and the unions were at an advanced stage.

"Delegations from SALGA, the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union and the South African Municipal Workers Union met in Kempton Park with the aim of finding an amicable solution to the wage impasse that will avert the planned municipal strike.

"It is encouraging that these marathon discussions developed a proposed settlement framework that provides hope for a settlement that will lead to industrial peace," read the statement.

The parties to the negotiations have agreed to take the proposals to their constituencies for further consultations to be reconvened on Thursday.

SALGA Chief Executive Officer Xolile George said the body was encouraged by the spirit of the negotiation process and the body was hopeful that a settlement would be reached soon.

"As stated earlier, SALGA believes that negotiations are the most preferred vehicle to nurture industrial peace as industrial peace is a critical prerequisite for faster and effective service delivery", Mr George said.

SALGA regretted that the impending strike could not be averted from occurring on Monday, as it was too late for the leadership of the unions to have consulted their constituencies.

"Our municipalities have put in place contingency plans to minimize the impact of the possible disruption that may occur on Monday as the communication of the jointly developed settlement plan is underway," he said.