06 April 2021
SAMWU warns the ANC and the DA to stop using workers’ issues for politicking and undermining collective bargaining.
The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) has learnt with great disappointment, shock, and anger at attempts by both the African National Congress (ANC) and the Democratic Alliance (DA) to use workers’ issues, particularly on the sensitive issue of the ongoing salary and wage negotiations for their selfish politicking at the expense of workers.
Just last week, when unveiling the City of Cape Town’s budget for the financial year 2021/22, the DA Mayor, Cllr Dan Plato made announcements that the City will be proposing budget cuts to the tune of R460 million.
According to Cllr Plato the proposed cuts of R460 million will be achieved through the freezing of salaries for workers in the salary and wage of workers, this despite the fact that salary and wages are already at an infant state in the South African Local Government Local Government Bargaining Council (SALGBC).
As SAMWU, we are opposed to the freezing of salaries of municipal workers who have been carrying the country throughout the pandemic and most importantly ensured that there is continuous and uninterrupted delivery of services to residents despite the risk of workers contracting the virus in the workplace.
We however welcome the announced move by the City to reduce the millions that they spend on contracts through the tender system. It is our considered view that the tendering system is not in the interest of service delivery but rather to deplete the already scarce municipal resources.
The tendering system further relegate workers to precarious work in that there is no job security, benefits and are providers of cheap labour. In addition to this, only tenderpreneurs are the main benefactors as they inflate prices for doing substandard work, work that can be done by workers who are permanently and directly on a permanent basis by municipalities as should be the case.
The union was taken aback when the ANC caucus in the City of Cape Town released a statement denouncing the announcements by Cllr Plato, this despite there being no consultation between the union and the ANC after numerous attempts to have engagements of mutual interests at all levels within the country.
Although this is a noble call by the ANC, we are well aware of the intentions behind this call. The ANC caucus is only concerned about their pockets because in the Mayor’s proposal, he did mention that Councillors will too not be receiving increases. This leads us to one conclusion being that the ANC caucus is singing for their supper.
For the record, we do not need the ANC to opportunistically fight our battle for a decent and living wage for municipal workers and our members.
Salary and wage negotiations in local government are negotiated in the SALGBC of which no political party, including the ANC and DA are not party to. Their interference in this ongoing process is nothing but opportunistic and undermines collective bargaining.
If the ANC was serious about the cause of workers, they would have been in the forefront of calling all ANC-led municipalities to withdraw their exemptions when municipal workers were nearly denied their salary increases last year.
They would also be in the forefront of denouncing the City of Cape Town’s attempts to dismiss over 500 firefighters, a cause which will relegate workers to poverty and starvation while on the other hand gravely affecting the City’s fire fighting capabilities. Yet they have decided not to say anything on this because their pockets have not been threatened.
As the so-called “leader of society” the ANC should have been in the forefront insisting that the government should pay public sector employees their salary increases. Already these workers have begun new negotiations in the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) while the previous salary and wage agreement signed in 2018 was never honoured by the very same government that workers voted for.
Even the provincial or national office of the ANC for that matter has not bothered to say anything to the effect of urging the government to pay workers what is legally and contractually owed to them. We cannot therefore be entertaining opportunistic and self-serving interests of the political elite at the interest workers.
Going back to Cllr Plato, we as SAMWU are of the view that these budget cuts come just a few months since the City approved ridiculous perks for senior managers and while the City is spending millions on privatised services.
If the City is serious about budget cuts, they should be re-municipalization municipal services and focus on reducing the bloated salary perks and benefits of Section 56 and 57 Managers. The City should also get its accounting in order, just last year, the Auditor General flagged the City for irregularly sending R56 million.
Since the announcement by Cllr Plato, the union has received an influx of calls from City of Cape Town employees and members who have expressed their anger at the announcement. These workers have also informed us that the morale amongst workers is at the lowest given the prospects of receiving no salary increase.
If Cllr Plato, political parties and any other municipality is interested in seeing demoralised and unmotivated staff, they should continue making such comments. An unhappy and demoralised staff complement will undoubtedly diminish workers’ productivity and compromise service delivery.
What makes us angrier is that the comments by the Mayor come just a few days after the conclusion of the first round of salary and wage negotiations in the South African Local Government Bargaining Council (SALGBC) wherein the employer representative, the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) failed to present an offer to the country’s municipal workers.
As SAMWU, we view the comments by the Mayor as nothing but an attempt to pre-empt these salary and wage negotiations which all parties, including a representative of the City of Cape Town agreed that they will be conducted in good faith. This announcement further nullifies the code of good faith signed by parties in the SALGBC.
In furthering his attempts to erode the work of the SALGBC, Cllr Plato went as far as suggesting that should parties in the SALGBC agree on a salary increase for workers, the City will be left with no option but to retrench staff.
This is nothing but an attempt by the City of Cape Town to bulldoze the SALGBC into conceding to his demands. We do not need to remind the Cllr that collective bargaining is legislated in the country and no employer, including himself, can just wake up one morning and decide what to or not to give workers.
We can assure the Mayor that workers in the City are not going to fold their arms and watch while he undermines collective bargaining which came as a result of the blood and sweat of workers. We as workers will not look the other way and smile when the workforce is being slashed.
The Mayor is starting a fight which he will not win, workers are ready to defend collective bargaining and their fellow employees.
As we go into the second round of negotiations in the SALGBC from the 12th to 14th April, we send a strong warning to all political parties and government that they should allow this process without any undue influence. Failure to which, these negotiations will be concluded on the streets.
Issued by SAMWU Secretariat
Deputy General Secretary
(084 806 4005)
(083 265 1519)
National Media Officer
(073 710 0356)