/ 26 June 2008

Cachalia slams ‘unacceptable’ metro protests

There could no justification for violent protests by members of the Johannesburg metro police department, Gauteng community safety minister Firoz Cachalia said on Thursday.

Seven metro police officers were injured on Wednesday when the police fired rubber bullets at metro police officers complaining about salaries and nepotism.

Cachalia said a labour relations framework — that protects the rights of workers to negotiate with their employers — was in place, and ‘therefore there is no justification for their behaviour”.

”Violence and disorderly conduct on the part of public servants, especially law enforcement officers who have the responsibility to uphold the law and protect the public, is completely unacceptable.”

Cachalia called on unions to provide guidance to protesters as there was an increasing tendency to resort to violence during labour disputes.

He also requested that the provincial commissioner of police and the chief of the metro police take firm action to ensure those responsible for the violence were charged and disciplined.

”The public expects and deserves nothing less,” he said.

The police said they were forced to take action after members of the metro police fired live ammunition at them while blocking major roads and higways in Johannesburg.

Concerns never resolved
Employment and salary grievances that were never resolved led to the protest, said the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) said on Thursday.

Samwu’s Johannesburg branch secretary Dumisani Langa said concerns raised about irregular salaries and alleged sexual harassment at the department were never addressed.

The critical issue around the protest were preferential salaries paid to some officers and the underpayment of other officers, he said.

At wage negotiations earlier this year, the city of Johannesburg and Samwu agreed that the minimum salary for a qualified officer would be R8 560 per month.

Langa said some qualified and experienced officers were receiving only R4 550 per month compared to R17 000 that a particular officer was allegedly earning,

”The preferential treatment was brought to management’s attention three years ago and the employer did not address the issue,” he said.

Workers’ immediate demands were that they be paid the same as the officer allegedly earning R17 000, or that all officers be paid at least the agreed minimum of R8 560 per month.

”We have been very clear on our demand which is that there can be no officer earning less than the minimum agreed for JMPD officers in this city and there can be no officer who suddenly gets a huge salary increase because he or she is friends with management,” Langa said. – Sapa