The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) in the Province of the Eastern Cape held its Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) from the 24th to the 25th of June 2021 to receive reports on the state of the union, progress on the job evaluation, COVID 19 and the financial report.
The PEC took place at a time when the country is facing a third wave of the COVID-19 virus which has claimed millions of lives globally and infected millions more with South Africa recording almost 2 million positive cases. The PEC urges all South Africans to play their part in ensuring that the transmission of the virus is minimised by adhering to the health and safety regulations that have been put in place by the government.
The PEC also takes place at a time where workers are facing an onslaught against collective bargaining from the government as an employer, influenced and perpetuated by the National Treasury. It is for this reason that the PEC has taken a resolution to support the upcoming COSATU National Day of Action against the collective bargaining by our very own government.
This meeting further expressed its dissatisfaction with the alliance partners, namely the ANC and the SACP’s failure to honour our invites to our meetings. It cannot be that our alliance partners and those who are supposed to be our reliable forces of the left only need what when it is convenient for them. We cannot allow the union and municipal workers to be forced into a marriage of convenience with no benefit whatsoever for them.
The PEC notes that the country is currently battling with the third wave of the virus, this after a new variant of the virus had been detected in the country with this variant seemingly fueling and accelerating the new rate of transmissions and infections in the country.
As municipal workers, we have lost a lot of members, colleagues, friends, and family members as a result due to COVID-19 complications. We once more as a union send our heartfelt condolences to the families, friends, and colleagues of all who have lost loved ones as a result of the virus. May their souls continue to rest in peace and may their families find strength and comfort during this difficult time.
Given the fact that municipal workers are in the coalface of service delivery and that their nature of work mostly requires interactions with residents and other workers, the PEC is of the view that more needs to be done to protect the lives and health of municipal workers so to ensure that services are not interrupted especially during a time when the country is facing a surge in infections.
Last year when the country was placed on a hard lockdown by the government, we were told that municipal workers are essential service workers and as such, they should be reporting for during the lockdown. Now when a vaccine is available and the rolling out thereof has begun, there is no single mention of municipal workers.
The PEC has therefore resolved that the Provincial leadership should immediately convene a meeting with the Eastern Cape Health MEC to demand that municipal workers be prioritised in the rolling out of vaccines.
We are of the view that vaccinating municipal workers will go a long way in ensuring that whilst the country fights this battle, basic services to South Africans are not compromised as a result of workers contracting the virus. This will also ensure that workers have the confidence that in executing their duties, they will not contract the virus.
We should, however, emphasize that our demand for vaccination of municipal workers should not compromise cultural, traditional, spiritual, or any other belief of municipal workers and as such, this vaccination programme should strictly be administered to workers who agree to be vaccinated, no municipal worker cohered into taking the vaccine.
In ensuring that workers are safe in the workplace and adherence to the Disaster Management Act regulations, the PEC has taken a decision that the union should guard against municipalities who would want to bring back the elderly and those living with comorbidities.
Experience has taught us it was as a result of the failure and negligence of municipalities that most municipal workers in the province contracted the virus at work. We do not need to remind municipalities that as per the Occupational Health and Safety Act, it remains the responsibility of the employer to ensure the safety of workers in the workplace.
The meeting further agreed that we must continue demanding COVID 19 risk allowance and that Local Labour Forums in all municipalities should be convened to discuss this matter to ensure that municipal workers are given what is due to them.
Salary and wage negotiations
At the national level, the union is currently engaged in salary and wage negotiations for workers in both the South African Local Government Bargaining Council (SALGBC) and the Amanzi Bargaining Council. We need to be conscious of the reality that we are engaging on the bread and butter issues of workers.
The PEC and SAMWU structures across the province have rejected the facilitators’ proposal of a 4% increase. Given what is happening in the public sector unions and our relations with the ruling party through COSATU. We need to be more extra-careful during this period of negotiations.
The ongoing arrogance by SALGA during this time of negotiations is worrisome and needs the unity of workers across the sector. We need to work closer with IMATU as the only other legitimate union in the sector, and possibly lobby and organise all workers in the sector to join the cause. As Karl Marx would say “Workers of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains”.
So, it is imperative that we wage our struggle on the streets to demonstrate our power as the working class. And at the same time, we must train workers in the class struggle and further test their strength in fighting against the total collapse of the capitalist system.
The union is overly concerned by the corruption that has engulfed municipalities in the province. It is as a result of the corruption that we are seeing in municipalities that the delivery of services to residents is compromised.
Before we are municipal workers, we are residents and as such, we too want to receive quality basic services from municipalities. It is for this reason that SAMWU is interested in seeing municipalities that are corruption-free and able to deliver services to residents with the little resources that they have.
We cannot therefore as a union turn a blind eye when the much-needed municipal resources are looted with impunity. As a union, we need to see people being held personally and criminally liable for facilitating corruption in municipalities.
We should also take note of the fact that in every corrupt relationship, there is a corruptor and a corruptee and as such we urge our members to not allow themselves to be put in compromising and illegal activities by their superiors.
As a union, we are aware that the scourge of corruption is not only limited to the government but also in the private sector, it may very well also be within our ranks in unions.
We, therefore, call for lifestyle audits on politicians and senior managers in municipalities. Our call for a lifestyle audit should however not only be limited to politicians and managers, even ourselves as municipal workers, shop stewards, and union officials should be prepared to subject ourselves to lifestyle audits.
State of Municipalities
The PEC made the following observations on the state of municipalities:
- The performance of the municipality is declining on a daily basis, the political instability in the municipality has a dire consequence of poor service delivery and possible loss of confidence of society in institution of government.
- Administration is being used by political leaders to serve their political self-serving interests.
- High level of financial mismanagement and maladministration.
- Lack of political and administrative coherence.
- Abuse of power and state resource.
- Non-sitting of relevant legislative structures.
- Union bashing is an order of the day.
Local Government Elections
The PEC resolved that ANC should not be given a blank Cheque this time around and COSATU should develop pre-conditions in order to get support from workers, e.g. all workers and shop stewards that were suspended and dismissed be brought back unconditionally in form of amnesty were municipalities are led by the ANC government.
PEC resolved that as SAMWU we need to demand 10% representation from ANC and COSATU must consult with SAMWU on both PR and strategic positions during the deployment process to municipalities in the province.
The PEC agreed that we must support the African National Congress in the upcoming Local Government Elections.
Issued by SAMWU Eastern Cape
071 628 7586
Deputy Provincial Secretary
071 900 5014