The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) is yet again agitated by attempts to collapse bargaining this time by the Department of Human Settlements, Water, and Sanitation in the Amanzi Bargaining Council (ABC).
The ABC consists of trade unions and the South African Association of Water Utilities (SAAWU) which represents 7 of the country’s bulk water suppliers who together are responsible for over 95% of water supply to the country’s municipalities.
The union is currently at advanced stages of salary and wage negotiations with SAAWU as the employer representative for Rand Water, Sedibeng Water, Lepelle Northern Water, Magallies Water, Amatola Water, Umhlathuze Water, Umgeni Water, Midvall Water, and Bloem Water.
We were taken aback when we received communication that Minister Lindiwe Sisulu had written to these water boards urging them not to change the conditions of service for workers, in essence, placing a moratorium on salary increases for workers. The Minister argues that this instruction is in support of Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni’s February budget speech wherein he announced government’s desire to reduce the wage bill.
SAMWU is angered that the department, following the advice of National Treasury, seeks to involve itself in matters which they are not party to. Only trade unions and SAAWU as employer representative are party to the ABC and not the department.
The involvement of the department in the bargaining council not only seek to derail good progress that has already been made in salary and wage negotiations but is also an unprovoked attack on workers and collective bargaining. Workers will be left with no option but to defend collective bargaining.
This is not the first time that National Treasury sought to impose its neo-liberal policies in our sector, they have attempted to do so with municipalities, resulting in several of them applying for exemption from paying municipal workers’ salary increases.
Just as we defended municipal workers from the involvement of National Treasury in municipalities, we are rolling up our sleeves in defence of our members in water boards. These workers cannot be blamed or used as sacrificial lambs in government quest to implement its neo-liberal policies.
Salary increases of workers in these entities are already two months in arrears resulting in workers not being able to cope with the cost of living. We want to see speedy conclusion to the negotiations that are at advanced stages.
We therefore caution Minister Sisulu to desist from interfering in the conditions of service of workers and rather allow processes at the bargaining council to unfold without the involvement of the department.
We further demand that the Minister withdraws the letters sent to water boards, failure to which, workers will be left with no option but to conclude these negotiations on the streets. The department should take blame for the consequences of workers taking matters into their own hands, including taps being dry throughout the country.
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)