A political solution has been reached to end the unprotected strike Pikitup embarked on 10 days ago, leaving Joburg filled with rubbish, overflowing bins and an overwhelming stench.
It was reached only through the intervention of the Gauteng government following a deadlock between Pikitup and its employees.
On Thursday morning, the City of Joburg said it could not intervene as it was an internal matter between the employees and their employer.
Later in the afternoon, however,Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Jacob Mamabolo said an agreement had been reached between the city, the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu), Pikitup and the province.
He said the truce had nothing to do with the bargaining council processes, which would still have to be followed.
Mamabolo said it did not replace the labour processes and it did not mean this was setting a precedent.
“We started talks on Monday. There were long days and nights, but we agreed on core issues,” he said.
“We understand it was an unprotected strike, but we acknowledge the legitimate demands of the workers,” he added.
It was agreed that:
* A senior advocate will be appointed to ensure a proper and conducive climate for negotiations and who will also work towards fostering trust between the parties.
* The Joburg city manager will conduct a city-wide investigation into salary disparity among workers, and Pikitup workers will be prioritised as they are the lowest paid.
* A cost exercise will be completed to see how this will impact on the city’s budget.
* By February 1, investigations will be completed into the factors leading to the strike, including the relations between Pikitup managing director Amanda Nair and her employees.
* The no-work, no-pay conditions will be discussed.
* The senior advocate will assist with criminal charges laid against workers during the wildcat strike.
* The hostilities will cease.
With regard to the demand that Nair be removed, Mamobolo said he was sure relations could be improved and saved.
“It will give both sides the opportunity to present more specific demands – not to place blame on anyone,” he said.
“We have taken into consideration the implications of the strike on Joburg residents and we have decided to start these talks to alleviate the unnecessary pressure residents find themselves in because of the strike.
“We know the round table for discussions is best,” he added.
The workers who were on night shift were now expected to return to work and cleaning would continue as normal.
Additional resources such as trucks and staff will be dispatched to catch up on the backlog of refuse removal across the city as from today.
Samwu deputy general secretary Simon Mathe said: “We remain convinced that our demands leading to the protest action are genuine, and as mandated by our members, we will allow this process to unfold.
“We therefore urge Pikitup workers to return to work.
“We further urge Pikitup management not to victimise workers who were part of this protest action.
“We thank the Gauteng province for intervening in finding a resolution,” Mathe added.
But the violence has taken its toll, with four Red Ants workers shot while cleaning up the streets as replacements for the striking workers. Strikers and police also clashed heatedly during the protests in Braamfontein, and a soccer star’s BMW was among the strike victims.
On Thursday, the smell from rotting rubbish in the Joburg CBD was unbearable as the mounds of uncollected filth grew higher.
Other parts of Joburg felt the effects from the strike too, with businesses affected.