Drama erupted at the provincial Department of Infrastructure and Development offices in Pretoria when a group of contract workers locked the main gates to the property during a protest for permanent jobs.
For hours, the department workers could not leave the facility until SAPS and metro police were called to intervene.
Protesters were employed under the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) since 2013.
They took to the streets after they received SMSes from the department on Friday, informing them that their contracts would be terminated in three weeks.
They marched from Marabastad old bus depot to the department offices on the corner of Bloed and Kgosi Mampuru streets despite not applying to protest.
Their demonstration in the middle of the road affected traffic on Bloed street. Some motorists and taxi drivers exchanged heated words with protesters after the former were prevented them from using the routes.
The situation was normalised after the SAPS and metro police officers negotiated with workers’ leaders.
Workers said they were angered by SMSes sent to them by department officials on Friday.
They held up placards bearing messages demanding permanent jobs. They also chanted derogatory songs aimed at managers at the department.
According to them, the managers treated them unfairly by ignoring a memorandum of demands submitted to the department on February 12.
Their spokesperson Shaun Arendse said the department had been rude for failing to respond to issues on the memorandum in seven days.
He said: “They department SMSes on Friday from the Department of Infrastructure telling them that their contracts would expire on March 31.
Many of the workers have been part of EPWP since 2013. They have been dismissed with three weeks notice via SMS.”
He said before the SMSes the workers were already organised under the EPWP forum to demand permanent jobs.
“If the ANC followed their own anti-labour broker legislation they would have been required to give them permanent jobs after three months in
recognition of their long service,” Arendse said.
In addition to demands for permanent jobs, he said, workers demanded to be paid a minimum wage of R12 500.
Arendse said they didn’t apply for the march because it was called at a short notice.
Workers’ leaders eventually entered into a meeting with senior department officials after the police intervened.
Officials promised to forward their grievances to the department’s head office in Johannesburg, where other EPWP workers converged to also call for permanent jobs.