Submitted to the City of Cape Town by the Social Justice Coalition

 11 July 2013

Janitors protest over working conditions, 19 March, 2013



(You can access the full report here:


On 3 October 2012 – following the Social Justice Coalition’s (SJC) quarterly monitoring report which illustrated major shortcomings in the implementation of the janitorial service – Mayor Patricia de Lille publicly admitted that “the City of Cape Town has not managed this programme effectively”. The City of Cape Town (CoCT) committed to improving implementation of the service and to holding a mini-summit within a month “to provide the basis for the development of a City Policy on Janitorial Services”. At the submission of the SJC’s next progress report on 6 December 2012, Mayor de Lille again stated that we should have “an operating policy for the city”; and City officials then committed to developing a formal timeframe for the development of a policy and operational plan which would be decided at a meeting to be scheduled for January 2013.

It has now been six months since the SJC last met with Mayor de Lille and other City officials on 6 and 7 December 2012. The SJC has continued to assist with monitoring of the janitorial and other sanitation services – as requested by the Mayor on several occasions over the past two years. We have since December, continued to conduct regular monthly site visits to selected sites across Khayelitsha and interviews with janitors. Our monitoring during this period shows that many of the problems brought to the City’s attention through the October and December progress reports continue and in some cases, issues have deteriorated after marginal improvements following Mayor de Lille’s interventions in December 2012. In addition, in 2013, new problems – such as chronic payment failures – have emerged and have at times threatened the effective continuation of the service.

Throughout this period the SJC has both privately and publicly called on the City to address these problems and follow through on its commitments, including meeting with the SJC in January 2013 as agreed, to develop a timeline for the development of the policy and plan, including provision for meaningful participation with citizens, civil society and experts. The City however did not respond to these requests, notwithstanding its prior commitments to do so.

The key findings of our monitoring from January to May 2013 are:

1.    Draft policy and operational plan

The CoCT committed to holding a meeting with the SJC in January 2013 to adopt a formal timeline for the development of the policy and plan. City officials did not respond to emails from the SJC requesting confirmation for this meeting and have not responded to several requests to the CoCT in writing since January as to the status of the development of the policy and plan. On 25 June 2013 Councillor Ernest Sonnenberg, MAYCO member for utility services, publicly claimed that “a Janitorial Services Operational Policy has been developed”. When the SJC requested this document from Councillor Sonnenberg, we were told in writing on 4 July 2013 that “the Janitorial Services Operational Policy is an internal working document on how to manage the programme”. The SJC did not receive a copy of this document, is not aware as to the nature of this document, and is not aware as to how it was developed.

2.    Payment failures

Over the past six months the janitorial service has experienced chronic payment failures. A number of janitors reported non-payment, while in March others were paid more than four times their usual salary. Janitors who were overpaid claimed that they were not opposed to repaying the overpaid wages; but were confused and angry over the manner in which the City conducted itself and the lack of adequate communication with janitors. This resulted in protests by janitors and a subsequent submission of a list of grievances to the Mayor’s Office on 25 March 2013. Janitors remain confused regarding the resolution of payment issues, particularly when payment issues are unresolved at the expiration date of contracts.

3.    Community consultation

During the month of December 2012 community meetings were repeatedly scheduled haphazardly and at the last minute and consequently the SJC repeatedly had to request advanced notice of community consultation meetings from the Independent Development Trust (IDT) – the organisation tasked by the CoCT to facilitate community consultation. Since the beginning of 2013, it is unclear the extent to which IDT has remained involved with the janitorial service community consultation. The SJC requested clarification on this in an email to CoCT officials on 12 April 2013. However this query was not answered.

4.      Contracts

Many janitors employed from April 2013 are being employed on one month or three month contracts, rather than six month contracts. It is unclear why contract lengths are differential; leaving many janitors confused regarding the different contract lengths

5.    Training

Frequency of training has vacillated considerably during 2013. In particular, janitors employed since February by and large report that they have not received training. The janitors have not received a printed manual, as was agreed upon at the beginning of the service, and the SJC has not seen such a manual if it exists.

6.    Equipment

Janitors received tools such as brushes and buckets; however janitors increasingly report that the tools received are insufficient.

7.    Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Some, but not all, janitors have received PPE. In a number of areas there is a severe shortage of PPE. Consequently, some janitors are forced to work without gloves and masks while others have no choice but to share PPE. Some janitors reported using the same mask for the duration of their contracts. The severe lack of PPE poses critical health risks to janitors. The City has been aware of these shortages for a number of months

8.    Chemicals

The provision of cleaning chemicals has been haphazard and insufficient during 2013. While some areas receive chemicals on a fairly regular basis, in other areas janitors report that they have not received chemicals for a period of months. In some cases, janitors have had to resort to using unsuitable products to clean the toilets. In other areas, janitors can only clean the outside of the toilets.

9.   Uniforms

Janitors have generally received one uniform each. They have not received rain suits and this has been a major and on-going concern for janitors going into the winter months. In some cases, janitors have been told by supervisors to take shelter inside of the toilets when it rains.

10.  Inoculation

During 2013, janitors report that many newly employed janitors have not received the required inoculations. These janitors are either unable to work or do so with severe risk to their health.

11.  Baseline Survey

The SJC has not been provided with the results of the baseline survey.

12.  Repairs

Repairs are still not being performed adequately across the sites that we have monitored. Janitors report that it can take up to three months for repairs to be done in some cases after having been reported.

13.  Hygiene education

Most janitors received hygiene education in February 2013. Since then hygiene education has not been provided on a regular basis.

14.  Employment process

Community members and janitors reported confusion in April 2013 regarding the employment process. It was unclear whether the CoCT employs janitors from wards or particular informal settlements. This caused friction between communities and janitors. In addition, communication from the CoCT confirmed that supervisors are now being employed by labour brokers. This again has caused confusion for janitors as to why supervisors are on seemingly permanent contracts.

For comment please contact:

Phumeza Mlungwana        0744178306    

Dustin Kramer                    0836740552   

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.