SAMWU in full support of COSATU National Strike.

01 October 2020

SAMWU in full support of COSATU National Strike.

The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) as an affiliate of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), is in full support of the federation’s planned day of action which will be a socio-economic strike on the 7th October 2020.

Based on the reports received from provinces, the union is well oiled and prepared to be part of the strike and as such, the union will also be making several demands which directly affect municipal workers.

We encourage municipal workers across the country’s 257 municipalities, their entities and Water Boards to participate in this action. This is a NEDLEC section 77 action that is protected under the Labour Relation Act and as such, no employee will be dismissed from work, threatened or victimized for participating in it.

As SAMWU, we fully support the call by COSATU that politicians should be prohibited from doing business with the state. Just as workers are not allowed to do business with the state, politicians should also not be allowed, after all, politicians are also employees of the state, in this case the legislative arm of government.

If revelations made in the last few weeks are anything to go by, there is a growing need to prohibit politicians and their families from doing business with the state. Allowing this to continue only further exacerbate the rot and corruption that we see and read of on a daily basis, it further gives them more leverage as they use their close proximity to decision makers to issue state contracts in their favour.

In participating in the strike, municipal workers are going to demand the following;

Withdrawal of exemptions

In 2018, SAMWU and parties to the South African Local Government Bargaining Council (SALGBC) reached a 3-year salary and wage collective agreement. As per this agreement, municipal workers were supposed to receive 7% salary and wage increase in 2018, CPI plus 1.5% in 2019 and CPI plus 1.25% in the last leg of the agreement being the 2020/21 financial year.

We were taken aback when National Treasury sought to collapse collective bargaining and nullify an agreement which is legally binding to all parties in the SALGBC. The National Treasury had urged municipalities not to honour this agreement, which was by way a product of compromises on our side.

The call by National Treasury was followed by that of the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) as a municipal representative which is party to the SALGBC. SALGA had also urged municipalities that they should renege on the agreement, this while their principal being Councillors were paid their annual increases leaving the people who are responsible for the core delivery of services to linger in hunger and starvation.

Following the call by both National Treasury and SALGA, 11 municipalities have formally invoked Clause 11 of the salary and wage collective agreement, applying to be exempt from paying workers their annual increases.

This happens while municipal workers are failing to keep up with the cost of living, food and transportation costs have skyrocketed, medical aids and other financial services providers have already increased their prices. The failure to implement this agreement has made live unbearable for municipal workers.

Of great concern to us is that municipalities that have applied for exemptions have increased electricity, water and other services costs by way more than inflation. They expect municipal workers to also pay for these services that have increased with salaries of 2019.

Municipal workers therefore demand that;

1. All applications for salary and wage collective agreements be withdrawn with immediate effect.
2. Municipalities that are yet to implement this agreement to do so with immediate effect.
3. The 6.25% salary and wage that is due to municipal workers be immediately paid with interest.
4. National Treasury should stop its attempts of collapsing collective bargaining.

Signing of ABC collective agreement

Parties in the Amanzi Bargaining Council (ABC) which includes unions and waterboards (Rand Water, Sedibeng Water, Lepelle Northern Water, Magallies Water, Amatola Water, Umhlathuze Water, Umgeni Water, Midvall Water and Bloem Water) responsible for over 95% of bulk water supply to municipalities had convened in the bargaining council for salary and wage negotiations.

Following several rounds of negotiations and compromises, parties finally found each other and agreed on the salary and wage increase that workers would receive. Parties were ready to sign the agreement until yet another attempt at collapsing collective bargaining occurred.

This time, a letter was issued by the Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Lindiwe Sisulu as the general overseer of the country’s waterboards that there should be no salary increases for workers in the sector.

The letter by the Minister is no different from the calls by National Treasury, it seeks to erode the work that has been done by parties to finally find each other in the negotiations. It further seeks to collapse collective bargaining and render bargaining councils useless in addressing issues faced by workers.

Workers are therefore demanding that;

1. Minister Sisulu should immediately withdraw her letter and apologize to workers for pain and suffering caused.
2. That parties in the ABC immediately convene to sign the salary and wage agreement.
3. Money due to workers immediately be paid with interests.
4. That Department should cease from interfering with issues of collective bargaining and allow parties to independently deal with their maters.

Payment of COVID-19 allowance.

The covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly wreaked havoc across the nation, mostly, we now live in an era wherein workers are facing an abnormally and risks to their health and safety. When the initial lockdown was announced, municipal workers were expected to be both the first line of defence for South Africans and continue delivering services.

Due to the new risk that workers faced, municipal workers had demanded a covid-19 allowance of R3000. When this issue was first raised in the SALGBC, it was dismissed by the employer representative, SALGA, arguing that this demand can only be entertained if workers were willing to forgo their salary and wage increments.

Municipal workers have ensured that despite the risk to their health and safety, including those of their families, there was no interruption of services in the country. It is only fair that municipal workers are compensated for the risk that they encounter on a daily basis while ensuring a continuation of services.

Municipal workers therefore demand that;

1. Parties in the SALGBC convene immediately and agree on covid-19 allowance for municipal workers.
2. That the covid-19 allowance be paid to all municipal workers who have been working since the lockdown begun.
3. That the covid-19 allowance be paid for each month of the lockdown.

Occupational Health and Safety of Workers

The covid-19 pandemic has exposed municipalities for their failure to protect workers in the workplace. When the pandemic hit our country’s shores, we were fearful for the health and safety of municipal workers because we knew that even before then, municipalities were failing to provide workers with the necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the safe execution of their duties.

Unfortunately, our fears have become a reality, over 9500 municipal workers have tested positive for coronavirus, with many of them contracting it in the workplace. Over 150 municipal workers have unfortunately lost their lives as a result of the virus. These are deaths and positive cases that could have been prevented had municipalities been serious in ensuring that workers are safe while at the workplace.

These numbers have been made worse by the fact that municipalities had taken a bullying tactic against workers who as per the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) and covid-19 regulations set out by the department of Employment and Labour, refused to work when it is unsafe to do so.

Municipalities have further been forcing workers with comorbidities and those who are over the age of 60 to return to work, this despite the regulations and health warning that these are individuals who are more likely to contract the virus.

Municipal workers therefore demand that;

1. Employers should comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
2. Employers should stop victimizing workers who refuse when it is unsafe to do so.
3. Workers be provided with necessary PPE.
4. Employers to comply with OSHA and Covid-19 regulations.

Corruption in municipalities

In 2018, former Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Minster Zweli Mkhize make shocking revelations that only 7% of the country’s municipalities are well functioning, while 33 are dysfunctional and another 33% on the brink of dysfunctionality. This is an unfortunate state of municipalities which has unfortunately not improved since these revelations were made.

Just recently, the Auditor General announced that in the 2019/20 financial year, only 21 municipalities out of 257 managed to achieve clean audit. This while fruitless and wasteful expenditure had ballooned to R4.7 billion. These amounts will continue increasing because people know that there is nothing that will be done to them for wasting municipal resources, there are no consequences, none whatsoever.

The poor and sad state that municipalities are in is further made worse by the rot, corruption and looting of municipal resources with impunity, it is free for all with no consequences. In fact, municipalities have become a breeding ground for corruption.

Municipal workers who take a stance against corruption are assassinated, threatened and dismissed from work in order to ensure that the looters of the much-needed municipal resources are not disturbed in their evil deeds.

The tendering system has also become an enabler of looters, thieves and crooks to play javelin with municipal resources. Worst part is that the tendering system has in no way improved the quality of services delivered but rather has created a conducive environment for these thieves to hike up prices so they can get their share, this while exploiting workers, not paying them decent wages and not having any job security whatsoever.

Municipal workers therefore demand that;

1. Those responsible for the looting of municipal resources should be arrested.
2. Whistle-blowers should be protected.
3. Those responsible for fruitless and wasteful expenditure should be held personally liable, those monies should be recouped and their pensions frozen.
4. An end to contracting and outsourcing of municipal services, these services should be re-municipalized.

Review on how Section 139 is used in municipalities

The country’s Constitution empowers National and Provincial governments to intervene in municipalities that are failing on their constitutional mandates. This can be done in the form of applying Section 139 A, B, or C of the constitution.

There are several municipalities that have been placed under administration through S139 A or B while two municipalities (Makana and City of Tshwane have been dissolved through S139 C. Most municipalities that have been placed under administration are however repeat offenders while in most instances there have been no positive results yielded as a result of government intervention.

It has also become clear that in most instances, government only acts or intervenes in municipalities in a bid to remove a particular faction of the ANC and in most cases, this intervention serves as a smokescreen to settle political scores.

The failure by government to properly manage the manner in which Section 139 is applied has led to the state of municipalities being in a far worse position than they were before the intervention because it is not driven by good intentions.

Municipal workers therefore demand that;

1. Political parties should stop using Section 139 to settle political battles.
2. That the application of Section 139 should be a last resort, when everything else has failed.

Review of municipal funding model

The country’s 257 municipalities have long been neglected by National Treasury and government as whole to fend for themselves. Currently, municipalities are expected to deliver services to South Africans on a shoestring budget.

In February 2020, the National Treasury allocated only R74 billion of government’s R1.7 trillion budget to municipalities, signifying a 4.22%allocations. This was the worst allocation for municipalities in many years as municipalities have always received between 7 and 9% of the allocation.

SAMWU has always contended that this allocation to municipalities is not in the interest of local economic development or service delivery. Worst part is that this funding model fails to take into account that most of the country’s municipalities serve rural population and the poor and as such are unable to raise revenue on their own to deliver services to residents, in particular the poor who need it the most.

It is our considered view that the constitutional and primary existence of municipalities is the delivery of services and not for profit making. It is for this reason that SAMWU further believes that the poor should not be denied services as a result of the financial situation which they find themselves in, a situation which is not of their own making.

We therefore call on the review of the funding model of municipalities, poorer municipalities should be assisted in fulfilling their constitutional mandate of service delivery. Afterall, municipalities are in the coalface of service delivery and as such they should be prioritised to enable them to not only deliver on their constitutional mandate but also to enable them to be drivers and champions of local economic development.

Before being workers, municipal workers are community members and as such, we want see municipalities that are well funded and able to efficiently deliver services to South Africans. We also want to see municipalities that are bias towards the poor and speak directly to their needs.

Municipal workers will therefore be demanding that;

1. There should be a general review of the funding model of municipalities.
2. That municipalities should be prioritised in budgetary processes.

Issued by SAMWU Secretariat

Koena Ramotlou
General Secretary
(073 254 9395)


Dumisane Magagula
Deputy General Secretary
(084 806 4005)


Papikie Mohale
National Media Officer
(073 710 0356)