CLEAN SWEEP: Municipal waste utility Pikitup will be broken up into seven parts and sold off to private businesses if new Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba gets his way. Picture: RUSSELL ROBERTS
CLEAN SWEEP: Municipal waste utility Pikitup will be broken up into seven parts and sold off to private businesses if new Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba gets his way. Picture: RUSSELL ROBERTS

THE Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) on Tuesday said it would "shut down Johannesburg" if mayor Herman Mashaba privatised the city’s waste management company, Pikitup.

Mashaba, the opposition’s first mayor in Johannesburg, has been in office for just over a week. He told the Sunday Times newspaper he was considering breaking up Pikitup into seven businesses, but that the jobs of the 4,500 employees at the entity would be protected.

"We are ready and willing to collapse and shutdown the city of Johannesburg, if mayor Mashaba thinks he is going to do the bidding of his friends from the Free Market Foundation by introducing their anti-worker and anti-union policies," the union federation said in a statement.

Cosatu said the privatisation of waste management would affect the poor, who might not be able to afford the service. The plan would also lead to job losses at Pikitup, labour would be casualised, and bargaining units would collapse.

Cosatu’s threat follows a similar one by the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) on Monday.

Union spokesman Papikie Mohale said Samwu members would do whatever it took to defend their jobs and to oppose the plan.

He dismissed Mashaba’s promise that the jobs of Pikitup workers would be protected, saying businesses were about making profit and would not to protect workers’ jobs if it meant losing money.

Mashaba said during his election campaign he planned to privatise Pikitup, and has stuck to his guns since becoming mayor. But disruption by unions will make the process highly challenging.

Samwu was behind recent industrial action at Pikitup that led to refuse piling up on the streets over several weeks.