Threat to shut down BCM cemeteries

BCM cemetery workers, demanding permanent employment, have threatened to not allow funerals to take place this coming weekend unless authorities meet with them. Image: Tyler Ridden

Grieving families could be barred from conducting funeral services at metro cemeteries this weekend if city authorities fail to come to the table and address grievances of disgruntled BCM cemetery employees.

A group of temporary workers downed tools at Haven Hills cemetery over the weekend, leaving funeral parlours having to do the work.

They have now threatened to close all metro graveyards this coming weekend, and not allow anyone to be buried if their demands are not addressed.

On Saturday at Haven Hills, a group of about 20 striking temporary employees, told the Dispatch that among their demands was that they be immediately made permanent employees of the municipality.

The striking group danced and sang outside the cemetery under the watchful eye of law enforcement.

Athenkosi Gola, speaking on behalf of the workers, said: “We want to be permanent staff as we have been temporary for five years. We haven’t seen a contract since 2013-14.”

He said temporary cemetery workers were paid just R140 a day and permanent staff about R300 – and temporary workers were not paid overtime for working weekends.

We have been temporary for five years

He said none of the roughly 24 striking staff at Haven Hills or the other 100-odd affected employees at other cemeteries belonged to a union.

Gola said every time they approached management on the issue, promises were made but nothing changed.

The Dispatch saw a string of e-mails showing how the workers had requested to meet with management since last year.

BCM spokesman Samkelo Ngwenya said the issue of the absorption of temporary and contract workers had been discussed at length at the Local Labour Forum (LLF), consisting of unions, management and key stakeholders.

“We will continue working together with all the relevant parties and overcome every step of this important process that seeks to ensure that our people are ultimately in employ, permanently,” he said.

“… this latest challenge could have been triggered by the good news that we have already started the absorption of some of the workers with the first batch taking place on July 1.

“… the LLF has yet to engage on this particular matter [cemeteries], but we commit to continue engaging with all parties so that we can avoid protracted disputes and minimise any inconvenience to ratepayers.”

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