The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) has noted the statement issued by the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) with great discomfort and agitation. Their statement follows SAMWU’s decision to declare that negotiations in the South African Local Government Bargaining Council (SALGBC) have reached a deadlock as parties could not find each other.
SAMWU has officially filed its papers to the SALGBC declaring a dispute and as such a dispute resolution mechanism should be followed. We reiterate that SALGA, as an employer body, representing the country’s 257 municipalities is the one that is responsible for the collapse of the salary and wage negotiations.
They have, from the onset negotiated in bad faith, telling workers that their principals (municipalities) have mandated them to NOT give workers an increase that is above inflation and workers’ benefits that are linked to salaries should be frozen.
The SAMWU negotiation team was told of the 1st of July 2021 by the same SALGA that “you can do whatever you want, including going on strike but there is no way that we are going to budge on our position.”
For us this is positional negotiations on the part of SALGA, they were not willing to compromise on anything throughout the negotiations, yet they expected workers to continually revise their demands whereas there was no reciprocation on their part.
For SALGA to then say SAMWU “surprisingly pronounced that it had no interest in the negotiations” is nothing but a convenient truth for SALGA. Workers were told in no uncertain terms that they will not be getting decent salary and wage increase, that their benefits would be frozen, there was no movement whatsoever from SALGA on these issues.
Any reasonable person can conclude that if the other party says they are not willing to move on certain issues, continuing talking would be nothing but a futile exercise. We would rather redirect our energies, time and resources towards servicing our members instead of talking to a stone.
In their statement, SALGA states that they have filled dispute papers and that municipal worker cannot go on a strike action. This nothing but an oligarchic approach by SALGA which municipal workers will not tolerate.
SALGA should not for a second think that they control the Local Government Sector, they cannot come with their dictatorial wishful thinking that all of a sudden municipal workers cannot go on strike because they say so!
SALGA cannot now out of the blue argue that municipal workers are essential service workers when it suits them. Why were municipal workers not considered essential service when they were denied covid allowance, why were these same workers not deemed to be essential service workers when other workers are busy getting the covid-19 vaccinations, leaving municipal workers exposed and vulnerable. Most importantly, why are municipal workers not considered essential service when they demand decent salary and wage increase?
However we are not oblivious to legislation that governs essential services and nothing in legislation says that all workers Municipal workers cannot partake in the strike.
We do not need to remind SALGA that the right to strike is the right of every worker in the Republic of South Africa. They have told us in the negotiations that we can even go on a strike action, but they don’t give a damn. Why has their posture which led to the collapse of the negotiations suddenly changed?
As we have said before, when these negotiations began, a strike action was the last thing on our minds, we thought parties, especially the employer body would come sober minded with the aim of ensuring that these negotiations are concluded timeously without the need for a strike.
We were however shocked by the posture and attitude of SALGA, an attitude of an uncaring employer who is not interested in labour peace and stability in the sector. Theirs is to ensure that they milk municipal workers as much as they can, including denying them decent salary increases.
It cannot be correct that SALGA wants to use Covid-19 as an excuse to give workers the peanuts of 2.8% salary increase as they have proposed. Municipal workers are not to blame for Covid-19, and as such the pandemic should not be used as scapegoat when workers demand decent increases.
In fact, according to SALGA and the National Treasury, municipalities have during the last financial year, improved on their revenue collection. They have collected more money than they have from residents than in the years prior to the pandemic.
Of great concern to us and what should be worrying SALGA is the poor performance of municipalities in their audit outcomes as presented by the Auditor General. It is our considered view as SAMWU that SALGA is in fact to blame for the poor performance of municipalities, they have failed to play an oversight role in these municipalities.
We are however not surprised by their silence on the poor performance of municipal audits, after all, you cannot bite the hand that feeds you!
We reiterate our earlier stance that in the dispute resolution that will commence soon, should the employer come with the same attitude that they are not going to give workers an above inflation increase, and that workers’ benefits will be frozen, we will be left with no option but to request a certificate of non-resolution as mandated by our members.
SALGA has in no uncertain terms invited workers to conclude these negotiations on the streets, this is an invitation which we have gladly welcomed. We are in the process of concluding the balloting of our members for a potential strike as required by law. Already, an overwhelming majority of workers have voted in favour of a strike.
Workers are being pushed into a corner by SALGA, this continued push by SALGA leaves workers with no option but to fight back to get their demands.
Issued by SAMWU Secretariat
Deputy General Secretary
076 580 4029
National Media Officer
073 710 0356