Pikitup employees affiliated to the South African Municipal Workers' Union embarked on an unprotected strike and trashed the streets, thought Johannesburg CBD. Picture: THE TIMES/MOELETSI MABE
Pikitup employees affiliated to the South African Municipal Workers' Union embarked on an unprotected strike and trashed the streets in the Johannesburg CBD. Picture: THE TIMES/MOELETSI MABE

THE City of Johannesburg is ready to implement a plan that will see law enforcement agencies escorting stand-in waste collecting vehicles, says mayor Parks Tau

He made the statement as disciplinary hearings got under way against 4,000 striking Pikitup employees on Tuesday.

The latest strike by employees aligned to the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) is now in its fourth week and has resulted in rubbish being strewn on streets and pavements, contracted trash collectors being intimidated and vehicles fired upon.

Three days of disciplinary hearings have been scheduled​.

Mr Tau said during a media briefing on Tuesday that 19 people were arrested in the course of strikes that began on March 9, saying the city could no longer tolerate "anarchy" as a result of the protests.

Law enforcement agencies would be escorting stand-in trash collectors‚ Mr Tau said. Strikers arrested at the weekend would face charges including malicious damage to property‚ assault and attempted murder, he said.

Pikitup said it did not want to pre-empt any of the outcomes of the hearings.

Representatives of the striking Samwu workers could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday. The union has, however, previously stated that its members were resolved to continue striking in the belief that a return to work would not result in a solution to grievances. The union wants Pikitup MD Amanda Nair removed and, following a citywide benchmarking exercise, salary bumps to take income to between R8,000 and R10,000 per month.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) will be seeking further meetings with the various parties. Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini said on Tuesday that Pikitup workers had asked the federation to intervene last week. "We have initiated a process to engage with the parties; we believe that their demands or their issues are genuine. We believe it is wrong for the employer rush into disciplinary hearings against shop stewards while these are being addressed," he said.

Cosatu was also talking to both sides involved in an ongoing leadership battle at a national level, Mr Dlamini said.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in Johannesburg called on Tuesday for residents to support the striking workers.

Democratic Alliance mayoral candidate Hermann Mashaba welcomed the involvement of law enforcement, but said the city’s response to the strike had been "wholly inadequate".