SAMWU calls on members to refuse to work without PPE and where overtime is not paid

29 April 2020

SAMWU calls on members to refuse to work without PPE and where overtime is not paid

The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) once again expresses its appreciation to municipal workers across the country for ensuring that South Africans continue to receive services during the lockdown. South Africans will forever remain indebted for the sacrifices that these workers have made in being in the frontline while putting their own lives and that of their families at harms way.

Last week, the union held a teleconference with provincial structures to get a briefing on the situation in different Municipalities. We are concerned that there is a spike in the spread of the virus among municipal workers, a reality which municipalities have been working hard to coverup as they are failing to release real-time statistics of infections.

We received several reports that despite regulations by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), coupled with those of the World Health Organization, most municipalities have failed to ensure that workers are provided with necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the execution of their duties. Some municipalities have gone to a an extend of victimizing and threatening workers with suspensions refusing to work without proper PPE given to them.

Some municipalities have gone to an extend of informing workers that PPE would not be provided as there is no financial provision for such and rather requesting workers to social distance instead. There are some workplaces where social distancing is just not possible as employees need to work in teams and in close proximity.

We again call on municipal workers that should the employer fail to provide them with PPE, they should refuse to work as they would be exposing themselves and their families to the virus.

We have also noted a communique by the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) to Officers asking them to purchase face masks out of their own pockets. We call on all JMPD Officers to ignore this request and further demand that the employer should provide these workers with the necessary PPE without pickpocketing them. Officers should refuse to work if the JMPD fails to provide PPE.

We again remind municipalities that the Occupational Health and Safety Act clearly states that it is the responsibility of employer to ensure that the workplace is safe for all employees. This very same Act further prohibits municipalities to victimize workers who refuse to work in unsafe workplaces.

The meeting also reflected on a circular released by employer representative, the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) advising municipalities to pay workers an allowance of only R470 during the lockdown. We consider this amount as an insult and a spit in the faces of municipal workers who are in the coalface of service delivery, workers who have put their lives and health along with that of their families at harm’s way.

We are of the view that the circular by SALGA is ill-informed and that the employer body cannot direct municipalities outside of negotiations or discussions in the South African Local Government Bargaining Council (SALGBC).

We will therefore be calling for discussions under the auspices of the SALGBC on a fairer monitory compensation that municipal workers should be receiving for delivering services during the pandemic.

The meeting also received reports that most municipalities have failed to pay workers for the overtime that they had worked during the lockdown period. The Basic Conditions of Employment Act is clear on what constitutes overtime and the payment thereof. We therefore demand that municipalities should immediately pay workers for the work that they have done outside of their normal working hours as per their conditions of employment.

We further call on our members to refuse to work any overtime if there is no commitment in writing by the employer that overtime payment will be made. Workers cannot be sacrificing their time and health for free.

It has also come to our attention that some municipalities have been recalling workers to return to work even though such workers are not deemed as essential. Worst is that these workers do not even have required permits and as such these employees risk being arrested for contravening lockdown regulations.

We therefore call on municipalities to desist from seeking to unnecessarily spread the virus in the workplace by recalling workers which are nonessential as per the regulations issued by COGTA. It is for this reason that we are calling on all municipalities to ensure that unions form part of Joint Operations Committees (JOC) so workers are protected from the abuse of systems by municipal management.

Issued by SAMWU Secretariat

Koena Ramotlou
General Secretary
(073 254 9394)

Dumisane Magagula
Deputy General Secretary
(084 806 4005)


Papikie Mohale
National Media Officer
(073 710 0356).