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Stadium staff walks out, upset about pay

June 15, 2010
Associated Press

CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- Police took over responsibility for security at World Cup stadiums in Cape Town and Durban on Monday after a wage dispute escalated between stewards and a security contractor.

World Cup organizers said they called in police after stadium staff left their posts in a wage dispute with Stallion Security Consortium.

The match between Italy and Paraguay at Green Point Stadium in Cape Town kicked off on time, but police said fans were kept outside the stadium grounds for an extra hour until the area was deemed secure.

"Gates have opened, the police are in control and the match will kick off as scheduled," organizers said in a statement.

Committee chief executive Danny Jordaan said the problem was an "employer-employee wage dispute."

"Although we have respect for workers' rights, we find it unacceptable for them to disrupt match-day proceedings and will not hesitate to take action in such instances," Jordaan said.

Col. Billy Jones, a police spokesman for the Western Cape region, said about 500 security staffers congregated on the stadium's second-level terrace. Employers attempted to negotiate a settlement, but failed.

"We had to take a decision quickly because we didn't have much time," Jones told The Associated Press. "We told both sides to take their labor dispute out of the stadium."

Jones said the striking security staff left peacefully. About 1,500 trainees from the national police were called in to fill the shortfall in manpower at stadium entrances, he said.

"We had contingency plans in place," he said.

Jones said the delays slowed fans as they entered the stadium, but that the gates were clear in time for everyone to be seated 15 minutes before kickoff.

Officials in cities hosting matches Tuesday said they expected no security problems.

In Rustenburg, where New Zealand and Slovakia kick off Tuesday afternoon, police already work alongside stewards who are expected to report for normal duty, North West Province deputy police commissioner William Mpembe said.

Port Elizabeth hosts the match between Ivory Coast and Portugal later Tuesday, and police are handling most security work at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, local organizing committee media spokeswoman Michelle Brown said.

In Durban, police used force late Sunday to break up a protest by stadium workers who said they had been underpaid. At least two protesters were hurt after police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse about 400 protesters.

The disturbance occurred after Durban hosted its first World Cup match, when Germany beat Australia 4-0 in Group D. The protesters there said they had been turned away from the stadium after demanding payment under the terms of a wage agreement. The workers said their basic daily pay had been slashed by about a third without notice.

Stadium officials could not be reached for comment.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press