SAMWU demands immediate payment for emergency work and condemns Harry Gwala and Kokstad Municipalities for turning community members against workers

The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) in the KwaZulu Natal province has learned with great concern a decision by the Harry Gwala District Municipality to unilaterally change policies of the institution without any consultation with labour. The District Municipality has further taken a bizarre decision to stop all worker from working overtime while also insisting that travel claims will only be paid once workers produce a tracker report as proof of the claimed travel.

Upon hearing of these changes, SAMWU through its lawyers wrote to the district municipality informing it that it is acting illegally by unilaterally changing workers’ conditions of employment. A letter of demand was also sent to the municipality that all employees who have worked outside of their working hours should be compensated in line with their contracts of employment and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act. 

Subsequent to the union sending a letter of demand to the municipality, a meeting was held between municipal management and the Union wherein the municipality acknowledged that they had erred in their decisions and undertook to pay workers as per the municipality’s policies and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act. We were however taken aback when the municipality backtracked on its commitment to pay workers what is due to them. The Municipal Manager, Gamankulu Sneke has arrogantly made it known that there is no worker that will be paid for any emergency work.  

To make matters worse, the district municipality has since prohibited all employees, including those in the water department from working outside their ordinary hours. This illogical decision has had severe consequences for the Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Ubuhlebezwe, Greater Kokstad and the Umzimkhulu Local Municipalities which are served by the Harry Gwala District Municipality. As a result, all these municipalities and their residents are affected by the decision of the district municipality as there is no constant supply of water because workers are prohibited from attending to emergency leakages and breakdowns in the area. 

Municipal workers have since adhered to the instruction by the District Municipality that all work outside working hours should not be undertaken, this coupled with the fact that should they attempt to work outside ordinary working hours, they will be contravening an instruction from the municipality. Importantly so, they will not be paid for the work that they have done. As SAMWU, we are of the firm view that workers should be readily available throughout the day, including at night to ensure that services are not interrupted in anyway. 

In as much as we are community members before we are municipal workers, and us too desiring uninterrupted provision of services, we cannot allow a situation wherein workers are turned into slaves of the municipality by not being compensated for the work that they have done. We therefore demand that the Harry Gwala District Municipality immediately withdraw the unilateral changes of conditions of employment which they have imposed on workers. 

We have also noted with agitation the remarks by Cllr Marcus Madikizela, the Greater Kokstad Mayor, who held several meetings with communities on the water shortages in the area. Cllr Madikizela alleged in those meetings that he was informed by the Harry Gwala District Municipality that workers, in particular SAMWU members are on strike and sabotaging service delivery in the local municipalities served by the district municipality. 

As SAMWU, we place it on record that no worker is on strike and that there are no intentions of going on strike yet. Workers are simply following an instruction given to them by their employer that they are not allowed to work outside of their working hours and that no emergency work performed shall be compensated. We cannot therefore expect municipal workers to volunteer valuable their time which they could otherwise be spending with their families to the municipality.

We find the allegations to be offensive and reckless as they have a potential to bring harm to municipal workers and their families. We are also convinced that these comments are meant to drive a wedge between workers and community members. For us, these irresponsible and reckless comments are meant to shift the blame from the municipality for imposing changes of conditions of service of employees which has now left them with an egg on their face. 

We have as a union also instructed our attorneys to approach the High Court on an urgent basis to interdict the implementation of these new policies by the employer and the unilateral changes in the conditions of employment. While we allow the legal process to unfold, we will continue demanding that the municipality immediately pays what is due to workers and that in the interest of service delivery, the prohibition of work outside ordinary workers be lifted with immediate effect. 

We sympathise with residents of the four local municipalities covered by the Harry Gwala District Municipality. The lack of service delivery also affects us, as we too are community members and have a vested interest in constant and uninterrupted service delivery. We therefore urge community members to not direct their frustrations to workers but to the Harry Gwala District Municipality which is solely responsible for the challenges which residents and us as workers are facing. 

We further call on the Harry Gwala District Municipality to desist from their smear campaign against workers and rather focus on ensuring that services are fully restored by withdrawing the prohibition and immediately paying workers what is due to them.   

Issued by SAMWU KZN

Nokubonga Dinga

Provincial Secretary 

065 871 8434

Or 

Xolani Shinga 

Deputy Provincial Secretary 

081 852 1821