Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Sports News

WCup stadium workers call on FIFA about pay

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[June 15, 2010]  DURBAN, South Africa (AP) -- Some 2,000 World Cup security stewards protested over wages Tuesday, calling on FIFA to confirm what they should be paid for working at the tournament.

The protest started with about 150 stewards dancing, chanting and singing as they walked from near the Moses Mabhida Stadium to a rally near Durban's busy downtown railroad. As their numbers swelled, they walked in an orderly column back to the stadium, where dozens of police shepherded them into a fenced-off field.

"Workers came to collect their wages for the days they have worked," one of the protest leaders, David Skhumbo, said.

Early in the afternoon, the stewards were standing mostly quietly, with an occasional angry outburst of shouting, looking through metal fences at the majestic white stadium as a police helicopter circled overhead. Spain and Switzerland were due to train at the stadium later Tuesday and will play there Wednesday.

Skhumbo said negotiations with the security company that hired the workers, Stallion Security Consortium, broke down without any progress earlier Tuesday. Protesters said they were given a letter to sign pledging not to go on strike.

Stallion has refused to comment on the dispute.

On Monday, police took over security at stadiums in Durban and Cape Town amid protests by stewards in the escalating pay dispute. Both cities are scheduled to host semifinals next month. Police were posted around the Durban stadium Tuesday and carried out checks that previously were done by the stewards.

Demonstrators in Durban waved placards saying: "We need our money, then we can feel it," a play on a local World Cup slogan.

"We want people of FIFA to confirm our earnings because Stallion has robbed us," protest leader Sibusiso Mthethwa said.

The stewards are represented by the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union, which is trying to open negotiations with World Cup organizers to get the workers back on the job.

"We are trying to gather more information, so we can attempt to engage FIFA and the local organizing committee and find a solution," said union coordinator Mzwandile Jackson Simon.

"There are indications they are willing to work something out," he added. "I don't think police will manage on their own."

Simon said the union was convinced that Stallion Security made wage commitments to the stewards that were not fulfilled, and said the company needed to be an active part of efforts to resolve the dispute.

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Durban police used tear gas and rubber bullets after Sunday's match between Germany and Australia to disperse a crowd of stewards at the stadium.

The chief executive of the World Cup organizing committee, Danny Jordaan, said Monday he respects workers' rights but called match-day disruptions "unacceptable" and said authorities "will not hesitate to take action in such instances."

Mthethwa said the protesters did not want to inconvenience thousands of fans who have traveled to South Africa.

"We are not fighting with our visitors," he said. "We like our visitors. We will protect them even when we are outside of the stadium."

Police moved in to take over security at Cape Town's Green Point Stadium just hours before the start of the Italy and Paraguay match, after about 500 security staff and employers tried to negotiate a settlement to their pay dispute. Police called in 1,500 national police trainees to take over security, with long lines of fans waiting to get into the stadium.

The standoff caused hours of delays, but all fans were seated in time for kickoff.

[Associated Press; By MIKE CORDER]

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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