Riot police break up World Cup wages demonstration

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Associated Press

Posted on June 14, 2010 at 1:06 AM

DURBAN, South Africa (AP) — Armed police charged into hundreds of security stewards at a World Cup stadium, using tear gas and firing rubber bullets to break up a protest over low wages just hours after Sunday's match between Germany and Australia.

Police appeared to set off two percussive grenades, causing loud bangs, to drive the workers out of a parking lot under the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban after the match.

Associated Press reporters saw about 30 police charge into the crowd to drive it out of the stadium. While calm quickly returned to the stadium, some of the security stewards, wearing orange and green jackets, continued milling around outside.

An AP photographer said police fired tear gas at protesters outside the stadium. A nearby street was littered with trash where the protesters were forced away. Concrete blocks had been pushed into a street.

About 100 police later surrounded a group of about 300 protesters on a street near the stadium and separated the men from the women. The protesters later left peacefully after discussions with police.

Lt. Colonel Leon Engelbrecht, a police spokesman assigned to the World Cup, confirmed that tear gas was used to help end the protest, but nobody was seriously injured.

A woman was hit by a rubber bullet but not badly hurt, he said.

Engelbrecht said the protest arose from a dispute between stadium workers and the security contractor over pay, and that disgruntled workers tried to stay in the venue after the match.

"It's a concern that the security company didn't have this settled before the tournament," Engelbrecht said. "Dialogue will continue to ensure this sort of thing doesn't happen again.

"It's fortunate it was well after the game."

Phindile Radebe, a police spokeswoman in Durban, put the number of protesters at 200 and said no arrests were immediately made, although investigations could yet lead to arrests.

She said police will mount extra security Wednesday, when Spain plays Switzerland in the next scheduled Durban game.

Speaking Monday, she said managers from the security company, Stallion, had an argument with stewards after the match relating to pay and the stewards "became unruly in such a way that they threw some objects toward the employer, some shoes and bottles."

Rich Mkhondo, head of communications for the local World Cup organizing committee, said the protest did not have any impact on security at the match or any spectators.

'Two hours after the end of the first match at the Durban stadium last night, there was an internal pay dispute between the principal security company employed by the organizing committee and some of the static security stewards employed by the company at the match," Mkhondo said in a statement e-mailed to the AP. "Police were called on to disperse the protesting stewards.

"This happened, however, long after all spectators had left the stadium after the match and the incident had no impact whatsoever on the match day security operations.

"The organizing committee will engage with its stadium security provider to avoid a repeat of the situation during the course of the tournament."

A FIFA spokesman had no immediate comment.

Protesters said they gathered at the venue to complain about their wages, claiming they'd been paid a fraction of what they were promised.

"We left our homes at seven in the morning and now it is nearly 1 o'clock (a.m.)," Vincent Mkize said. Before the tournament, "In the dry run, they didn't want to tell us how much we would get."

Another of the stewards, Fanak Falakhebuengu, told the AP he had heard they would be paid 1,500 rand ($195) a day but they were only getting 190 rand ($25).

"They were supposed to give us 1,500, that's what FIFA told us, and they gave us 190. We are working from 12 o'clock until now," said another man who asked not to be named. He ran from police before he could give his name.

Many of the protesters were waving small brown envelopes that had held their pay. One handed to a reporter had the figure 190 written on it under "amount payable."

Others said they had been abandoned at the stadium after the match and would have to walk about four hours to get home. They said no transport was provided for them.

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AP Sports Writer John Pye in Johannesburg contributed to this report.

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