Community workers launch forum

Participants of the Community Work Programme formed a forum to represent their interests.

A group of 500 Community Work Programme (CWP) workers have decided to establish a forum to represent them with regards to workers’ rights, including salary negotiations.

The workers feel that they are being exploited by the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), which runs this programme. The workers say they are considered participants of a poverty relief programme and received a monthly stipend.

On Monday April 16, the CWP workers met in Manenberg for the launch of the Community Workers Forum Cape Flats.

Spokesperson Larenzo Morris said some people had been working for the project for 10 years, but still received R700 a month.

“To work for that amount of money is unacceptable. It is also unacceptable for government to say that it is not formal work. It is supposed to be a poverty alleviation programme, but it is keeping our people in poverty. Government needs to pay people at least R1 500 a month.”

Mr Morris added: “The CWP participants have undertaken to organise themselves into a forum to promote their rights, in which to raise their plight for a wage increase.”

Mr Morris accused the department (CoGTA) of not responding to their demands. He said the department also failed to attend meetings to address workers. “Instead, they only communicated that workers would be paid late for April,” he said.

Spokesperson for the department, Legadima Leso, reiterated that the CWP was a poverty alleviation programme.

“It is not supposed to be permanent. The stipend of R800 a month they receive is policy-guided by the National Treasury, and it is not something that can be changed willy-nilly.

“Those who are part of the CWP, are participants, not employees. The money they receive is supposed to assist them, that is why it is called a stipend, and not an income. The aim of it is not for participants to be part of it forever. It is designed to give the participants training so that they can go look for permanent employment. I am worried about the people who have been part of the programme for too long. The participants only work two days a week. They cannot compare themselves with people who are part of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), as they sign two-year contracts and work five days a week,” Mr Leso said.

Mr Morris also alleged that there had been corruption within the CWP, including tender irregularities and nepotism.

Mr Leso said government takes allegations of corruption seriously.

“It is important for them to give us the information, so that it can be investigated, because it does not make sense to have a poverty alleviation programme that has accusations of corruption,” Mr Leso said.

Mr Morris said the Community Workers Forum resolved to elect a committee that will attend the budget vote debate of both CoGTA and the National Treasury on Tuesday May 15. They also plan to have a march to Parliament on that day.

“We call on the community, trade unions, organisations, sports bodies and civil society to show solidarity with the workers to march with them,” he said.