Tendai Rupapa Senior Reporter
Harare City Council street cleaners have lambasted their employer for failing to provide them with personal protective equipment in the face of Covid-19 which is wreaking havoc worldwide.
The city cleaners are working without gloves, protective shoes and even standard hard brooms.
Globally, 860 927 people have so far contracted the disease, while 42 361 have died with 178 540 people having recovered from it. Concerns raised by the council workers come at a time when the country is observing a 21-day directive to stay at home in a bid to control the spread of the disease.
Sanitisers which they need to keep the disease at bay are not easy to access. The Herald crew witnessed the workers working without personal protective clothing and using homemade brooms at Copacabana, Fourth Street and Market Square termini. They were cleaning the areas without masks, protective shoes and gloves adding that they were given only one uniform per person.
“Even in the face of this disease, we have nothing to use. Not even face masks and sanitisers. We are being made to clean the streets without protective gear. We do not have masks to protect us from inhaling dust and we sometimes have to use our bare hands much of the time because we do not have gloves,” said one of the workers who declined to be identified for fear of victimisation.
Another cleaner said; “Coming to work is now a health hazard for us because we are made to handle the dirt and pack into sacks. We are sometimes made to jump into skip bins to physically compact the garbage.”
Another disgruntled worker said council was not doing enough to protect them from Covid-19.
“We do not have enough uniforms and we are made to buy our own sweeping brooms. This is painful because from the little money they give us, they want us to buy equipment which they must provide. We need the jobs but they must look after us.”
Council spokesman Mr Michael Chideme acknowledged the workers’ concerns and said plans were underway to address them.
“Those issues are being addressed holistically. Protective clothing has been provided and we urge workers to bring such matters to management,” he said.
Mr Chideme said management was working on providing protective clothing in the wake of Covid-19 and some workers have since been given the protective gear.
“Please note Covid-19 was an emergency. We are taking all necessary measures to ensure all our employees are sufficiently protected from the disease,” he said.