Workers at the popular student accommodation demand higher wages.

Two-hundred and thirty-one South Point workers in Braamfontein downed tools demanding better wages as they are struggling to maintain monthly expenses such as children’s school fees, transport, and groceries on their current wages.

The workers who belong to the South African Industrial Commercial and Allied Workers Union (SAICWU) started striking on September 10. The workers comprise security guards, maintenance workers, and outsourced cleaners.

A South Point key shop worker Patrick Matimba told Wits Vuvuzela that the strike is part of a nation-wide South Point strike. The strike is also taking place across other South Points in Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Pretoria.

Matimba said that they first approached South Point on June, 19 with their list of demands which include a salary of R8 500, a pension fund, medical aid and housing allowance.

“The company doesn’t want to give us any of our demands, not even one. They said on Friday’s [September 14] sitting that they cannot afford to meet our demands. The only thing the company is willing to settle on is the long service amount. But that wasn’t part of the demands, they suggested it,” he said.

The 45-year-old added that they had closed KFC, Chicken Licken, Puma, Converse, Galata, 86 Public Velo, The Immigrant and other retail shops around Braamfontein. “All these shops are under South Point. We shut them down so they can hear our complaints,” he said.

A statement received by Wits Vuvuzela from South Point said that the company had been negotiating with SAICWU for four months in an attempt to avoid a strike. The statement added that the salary demand by the workers was not viable and unsustainable for the company. According to South Point, the worker’s salary demands surpass the national minimum wage of R20 per hour.

“Although South Point has made a number of concessions, including, among others, the provision of a provident fund, the parties reached a deadlock on August 30, 2018,” the statement said.

South Point also said that they had agreed to protest by the workers. The agreement, according to South Point, was not adhered to as workers threatened South Point employees, residents, clients, suppliers and retail tenants.

Galata Bakery and Coffee manager Tshegofatso Mojela told Wits Vuvuzela that the threats, intimidation and closure of the shop for a week by South Point workers and supporters of the strike has negatively impacted business.

“We’ve lost a lot of business because we’ve lost a full week. Customers are not feeling safe to return to the shop because they were intimidated and kicked out the shop,” Mojela said.

“It’s discouraging to see that South Point is doing everything in their power to protect themselves and not their customers,” added the 24-year-old referring to the large white burglar garage doors over the South Point offices.

The strike is ongoing as the permission certificate to strike has allowed workers to strike until further notice.

Workers are expected to be addressed on their demands by South Point on Tuesday, September 18.

FEATURED PHOTO: South Point workers picket outside the offices awaiting response from the company.                           Photo: Onke Ngcuka