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Workers in Cape Town help each other

Nine workers gave up their jobs in Cape Town last month. They gave up their jobs so other workers could keep their jobs.

The nine workers live in Cape Town. They gave up their jobs for migrant workers from the Transkei. The workers all work for Trident Marine Services. At the end of June, the bosses said 12 workers must leave. They said business was bad.

Learn and Teach spoke to Shadrack Gqiba. Shadrack is one of the workers who gave up his job.

Learn and Teach: How long have you worked for Trident Marine Services?

Shadrack: I have worked there for 8 years. But I have done the same work for over 50 years.

Learn and Teach: What did you do there?

Shadrack: We look after ships in the harbour. We tie the ships to the pier. We paint, blast, clean and spray the ships. I was in charge of my team. I was called a workhand.

Learn and Teach: Did you enjoy your work?

Shadrack: I enjoyed my work very much. This work is the only work I know.

Learn and Teach: How did you find out that the company wanted some workers to leave?

Shadrack: On the 24th June the company called the workers to a meeting. People from our union also came to the meeting. The company told us business was bad. They said 12 workers must leave.

Learn and Teach: Why do you think business is bad?

Shadrack: The companies are getting little work. I think the same thing is happening all over the world. I don’t know why.

Learn and Teach: Who said that the migrant workers must stay?

Shadrack: It was my idea. I said we must look after the migrant workers. They come from Transkei. Jobs are very hard to find in the Transkei. Also, some of the migrant workers are in the middle of their contract. If they lose their jobs, they can’t get jobs for the next 6 months.

And another important thing: Migrant workers may get section 10 rights soon. Section 10 rights let workers and their families live in cities like Cape Town. The Appeal Court in Bloemfontein will decide about this soon.

Migrant workers will get section 10 rights if they have worked at the same place for 10 years. Some of the migrant workers at our company have worked for nearly 10 years. So they can’t leave now. If they leave now, they will never get section 10 rights. Section 10 rights are very important these days.

Learn and Teach: What did the migrant workers say at the meeting?

Shadrack: They were happy to stay. But they were sad to see us go.

Learn and Teach: What did the workers from Cape Town say?

Shadrack: Nine workers from Cape Town said they will leave. They wanted the Transkei workers to keep their jobs. Only 3 migrant workers left. But they left because the company closed their department. The Cape Town workers could not help them.

Learn and Teach: Was it difficult for the Cape Town workers to leave?

Shadrack: Most of us have families to feed. I have 10 children and 5 grand­ children. Only one of my children works. My wife is a cleaner. She earns very little money.


Learn and Teach: Did Trident Marine Services pay you out?

Shadrack: Our union spoke at the meeting. They said the company must give us 4 weeks pay. I got R500. Now the money is nearly finished.

Learn and Teach: You spoke about a union. What union is this?

Shadrack: The General Workers Union. We joined the General Workers Union three years ago. Before we joined the union, we had a liaison com­mittee. But I did not like the liaison committee. The liaison committee worked for the bosses.

Learn and Teach: Are things different with the General Workers Union?

Shadrack: Everything has changed. We were treated like children before. Now we are treated with respect. We are treated like people.

Learn and Teach: Are you sorry you gave up your job?

Shadrack: No, I am not sorry. But I am worried about my age. Old people can’t find jobs easily.

Learn and Teach: What will you do now?

Shadrack: Most of the workers were lucky. They have found jobs. Some com­panies read about the story in the newspapers. They wanted to help the workers. They gave them jobs. But I have no job. I will wait until next month. When the rain stops, maybe I’ll get a job painting houses.


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