The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) has learnt with great shock and disgust the attempts by the National Treasury to collapse collective bargaining in the local government sector. This after the National Treasury wrote to the employer body, the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) to urge municipalities to invoke clause 11 of the collective agreement which makes provision for a municipality to apply for exemption if it is unable to honour the collective agreement.
Yesterday, (17 June 2020) SAMWU and parties of the South African Local Government Bargaining Council (SALGBC) attended an Exco meeting of the Bargaining Council wherein a delegation from National Treasury unashamedly repeated their call that municipalities should apply for exemption from the collective agreement which is in its last year with workers due to be paid a salary and wage increase of 6.25% as of 1 July 2020.
National Treasury has used the Covid-19 pandemic as motivation for municipalities to renege on an agreement which was actually forced down the throats of municipal workers. Municipal workers had out of their goodwill compromised and agreed to this salary increase given that in the negotiations our demands were way above the settled figure.
We cannot allow National Treasury to blame a global pandemic as a reason why municipalities should not honour a lawful and binding agreement in place. We are well aware of the fact that Treasury has adopted a neo-liberal stance which seeks scale down on government expenditure while blaming workers for government’s inefficiencies.
In delivering his anti-worker and anti-poor budget in February this year, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, announced that government will be cutting back as much as R160 billion from Provincial and National budgets. Blaming Covid-19 as motivation for municipalities to renege on the collective agreement is therefore nothing but an incontinent truth.
As much as we are shocked and angered by these antics by National Treasury, we are however not surprised because for the longest of time municipalities have never been taken serious by that institution or government.
According to National Treasury, the President lied when he said there will be an amount of R20 billion advanced to municipalities as part of the R500 billion relief package. The presentation by National Treasury was that there is no new money that is coming to municipalities, this is money that would have come either way, just that this time with a particular purpose being provision of water and sanitization, housing and fumigation of public spaces, essentially robbing Peter to pay Paul.
The National Treasury has also argued that there is a need for moderating of budgets in line with falling revenue projections from national fiscus. What the team from National Treasury did not take into account is that municipalities are in the process of passing their own budgets in anticipation of the new financial year, with some having have already approved salary increases for both councilors and municipal workers.
What the team is asking of municipalities essentially is that municipalities should reverse their own Council resolutions. Political Office Bearers with the exception of the President, his Deputy and Ministers have already received their salary increments for the year, it therefore makes one wonder why National Treasury would think its morally correct for municipal workers to be forced to forgo their increments.
In making its presentation in the meeting, National Treasury sought to impose itself as a party to the SALGBC and further blackmailing and threatening unions to concede to this evil, selfish and pathetic demand of theirs by hinting at retrenchments in the local government sector.
For the record, National Treasury is party to the SALGBC, it is not an employer body, nor does it represent municipalities or workers. If anything, National Treasury has long left municipalities to fend for themselves by refusing to adequately fund them.
We therefore send a strong warning to National Treasury to stay out of the affairs of municipalities and workers, they have long failed to do right by municipalities. The union further sees the acts by Treasury as a provocation of municipal workers and an attack on collective bargaining which they are not part and parcel of.
Collective Bargaining is a product of the sacrifices, sweat and blood of South African workers and as such cannot be taken away from workers by a directive from a neo-liberal sponsored agenda of National Treasury. If National Treasury wants war, they should declare it by touching the benefits of municipal workers, workers are ready to defend what is rightfully and legally theirs.
We therefore do not expect any municipality to fall into this trap of pitting workers against their employers. Municipal workers will not sit idle when their conditions of service are illegally tempered with.
As of July 2020, we expect all municipalities to implement the salary and wage increase of 6.25% to all workers under the auspices of the SALGBC, failure to which, municipal workers will be left with no option but take matters into their own hands and force municipalities to comply with a legal and binding collective agreement.
Issued by SAMWU Secretariat
Koena Ramotlou, General Secretary (073 254 9394), Dumisane Magagula, Deputy General Secretary (084 806 4005) or Papikie Mohale, National Media Officer (073 710 0356)