South Africa

NEWSFLASH

Cosatu demands safer transport and better working conditions for museum workers

Cosatu demands safer transport and better working conditions  for museum workers
Iziko employees are demanding equal benefits but management says this may take a while to implement. (Photo: Karabo Mafolo)

The debilitating state of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa and workers struggling to reach an agreement with management at heritage museums were among key issues raised by Cosatu and their affiliates during a march in Cape Town on Thursday.

On Monday, Iziko Museum of South Africa employees and management failed to reach an agreement regarding pay increases and benefits of staff, so on Thursday the employees, alongside hundreds of Cosatu members, marched to Parliament to hand over a memorandum which was accepted by Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Lechesa Tsenoli. 

The issues that led to Iziko employees taking to the streets aren’t new. Wayne Florence, a  curator who’s been at Iziko just over 10 years, says the issues employees are raising have been around since he started working at Iziko. These range from the insourcing of contract workers to salary increases and benefits.

Iziko employees claim that not everyone received the same housing allowance. They also claim that curators earn an entry-level salary. “A graduate straight out of varsity will come here and earn the same as me even though I’ve [hypothetically] been working for 10 years as a curator,” said a curator who’s been working at Iziko for five years.

Iziko employees aren’t the only museum employees with grievances. In the memorandum handed over to Tsenoli by Molebatsi Tuka, Nehawu’s regional organiser, demands were also made from Robben Island Museum, Artscape and South African Heritage Resource Agency (SAHRA)  employees. 

“[These] public entities are the vanguard in protecting and preserving our heritage, culture and history as a people of South Africa,” reads the memo.

“We do all this work looking after our heritage and educating people about it but we’re not treated fairly,” said a curator from Iziko who did not want to be named.

A 2018 South African Cultural Observatory study found that the arts and culture industry generates a million jobs.

“But today workers at these entities under your jurisdiction [the department of sports, arts and culture] are still experiencing all forms of discrimination and inequalities. Workers are still marginalised, continue to earn apartheid poverty wages and are placed in employment positions with no real benefits,” reads the memo.

The common thread in the grievances raised by Iziko, Artscape and SAHRA is that their employers are keeping some workers as contact workers for years without giving them any benefits. 

Therefore, “as workers [we] decided to embark on a consistent campaign against contracts workers”. 

The demands include that all contract workers across all the entities be insourced, that they receive equal benefits and that a centralised bargaining forum be created for all the entities.

The department of sports, arts and culture did not respond to queries sent by the time of publication.

Before heading to Parliament, marchers stopped at the Cape Town Station to hand over a memorandum.

During last week’s State of the Nation Address, President Cyril Ramaphosa said R1.4-billion would be invested in fixing the Central Line in the Western Cape and the Mabopane Line in Pretoria. 

Motlatsi Tsubane, the provincial chairperson of Cosatu, acknowledged this and said that more needed to be done to fix the railway service.

“Cosatu has been involved in negotiations with the government for more than 10 years to improve the rail service and very little has been done so far by the metro rail. This is why our Cosatu members are referring to Metrorail as metrofail,” reads the memorandum.

Among Cosatu’s demands were that there be “12 visible (security personnel) deployed at all stations in order to create a safer environment for commuters”, that there be reliable transport in the rural areas and that “workers must not lose money if trains are late and or cancelled”.

Raymond Maseko, the regional manager of Prasa, accepted the memorandum and told marchers that their “demands were just and fair”.

Tsubane told Maseko that should their demands not be addressed within 14 days “there will be sit-ins in your offices. No one will leave until we get a workable solution.”

At Parliament, deputy minister of transport Dikeledi Magadzi released a statement saying that “the ministry of transport will continue its engagements with all stakeholders regarding transport challenges in the Western Cape and is confident that amicable solutions will be found and implemented swiftly”. DM

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