Video by Sihle Mavuso
Durban – Warders and wardresses at the overcrowded Westville correctional centre in the west of Durban have started engaging in their mooted lunch-time pickets to force authorities to address several grievances they have reported to them.
The first picket took place on Wednesday during the lunch hour in front of the main offices of the correctional facility and about 120 officers took part in it.
According to staff members who alerted IOL of the Westville picket, they said they want authorities to deal with their issues of salary adjustments and benefits where some of them were left out.
WATCH: Westville prison in Durban on edge as disgruntled correctional services staff intensify their lunch time pickets over salary increments and working conditions. The picketing started yesterday and it's set to intensify today when the head of prisons visit the centre. @IOL pic.twitter.com/dRYPshiXnS
— Sihle Mavuso (@ZANewsFlash) November 17, 2022
They also want the government to address their working conditions as the centre, just like many others across the country is overcrowded and not easy to run.
This, in some instances, has led to overworked staff members being stabbed by violent inmates while patrolling cells at night and on weekends.
“Basically this is about the money which was not given to all of us and about our terrible working conditions in the centre.
“Most prisons, and ours included, are overcrowded which then leads to staff being outnumbered by inmates.
“In some cases, this has resulted in violent inmates attacking and disarming warders while patrolling overcrowded cells for prohibited activities.
“The authorities had not addressed that issue even though they are fully aware of it and the risks we face while in the workplace.
“So with these pickets, we want to force them to address the challenges we face on the ground on a daily basis,” a staff member told IOL.
The second leg of the picket was set to take place on Thursday and it was set to coincide with a visit of a high-profile delegation from the national office visiting the centre.
However, it did not happen as planned.
Despite fears that the picket may become a full-blown strike and lead to prison escapes, the department said none of such is anticipated.
The department’s spokesperson, Singabakho Nxumalo told IOL that by law, their workers are not permitted to engage in industrial actions.
“We are an essential service, officials are not permitted to strike,” he said.