22 April 2022
SAMWU memorandum of demands submitted to the Lepelle Northern Waterboard, on 22 April 2022, Polokwane.
We, gathered here today as members of the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) and employees of the Lepelle Northern Water hereby submit this memorandum of demands to the management of the Waterboard.
We work tirelessly on a daily basis to ensure that almost 90% of communities and businesses in Limpopo province receive water which is a precious resource and a fundamental basic need for all human beings.
We are however aggrieved by the manner in which the Board of Lepelle Northern Water is running the, leading us to conclude that they are unable to fully discharge of their fiduciary duties in the interest of the entity, workers, businesses and community members in the province. We are further aggrieved by the management style which seeks to erode sound labour relations in the institution.
Despite several meetings that we have held with the management, many of our grievances have not been addressed to the safistrction of workers, thus leading us to gather here today to deliver this memorandum of demands.
As dedicated and committed workers of Lepelle Northern Water who are interested in seeing stability, sound labour relations and most importantly an entity that delivers a fundamental basic human right, we, hereby list of grievances and demands as follows;
The country’s laws, in particular the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) dictates that all employers have a responsibility to provide a workplace that is healthy and safe for employees to fully execute their duties. Lepelle Northern Water has however neglected the obligation that it has towards its employees to provide a healthy and safe working environment both operationally and legislatively.
In a bid to ensure that workers are closer to the workplace and to ensure that maintenance issues are attended timeously, the employer has made provisions for on-site residences for employees in several camps across the province. At the Olifantspoort camp in Lebowakgomo, workers are exposed to wild animals which roam around in the residences and the workplace as the site is not properly fenced. The same applies to workers at the Phalaborwa camp which is adjacent to the Kruger National Park. Workers in Phalaborwa are forced to work and sleep side by side with elephants, lions and many other animals that are found in the Kruger National Park as the site is also not properly fenced, leading to animals gaining access to the camp.
Legislatively, the National Occupational Safety Association (NOSA) conducts regular audits at the water entity’s sites to assess the entity’s compliance with legislative frameworks. It has since come to our attention that management at Lepelle Northern Water have been deliberately manipulating these NOSA audits by forcing workers to remove and hide items that NOSA would identify as being hazardous in the workplace. For fear of reprisal, workers comply with this illegal instruction from management which have resulted in the entity receiving certificates of compliance whereas this is a pure fabrication.
Workers at the entity have for the last two years not received Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which enable them to do their work safely. It has also come to our attention that the PPEs that have been provided to workers is not approved by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) meaning that workers are given a false sense of safety by the employers whereas they are not protected at all.
Salary adjustments and outstanding matters.
In the 2020/2021 financial year, SAMWU and Lepelle Northern Water reached a salary and wage collective agreement in the Amanzi Bargaining Council (ABC) which would have seen employees falling under the bargaining scope receiving a 6.5% salary increase. Instead of fully implementing the agreement, Lepelle Northern Water decided to pickpocket workers by only paying them 3% salary increase.
There was no engagements with organised labour when the decision to shortchange workers was taken, the employer on their own accord decided the salary increase that workers will receive. As SAMWU, we view this practice as a direct attack to collective bargaining as the employer is hellbent on not implementing what parties have agreed on in the ABC but rather want to make a determination on their own the salary and wage increase that employees should receive.
Workers who do not fall under the bargaining scope are also subjected to the same treatment by the Lepelle Northern Water wherein their salary and wage increases are determined at the discretion of the board. In the last two years, the board has made a decision to deny these employees a salary and wage increase, despite the financial hardships and increased cost of living that is affecting all South Africans.
In the Amazi Bargaining Council, Lepelle Northern Water agreed to the establishment of a task team to deal the the demand for workers for a danger allowance of a once-off amount of R10 000. To show that the employer was negotiating in bad faith, they unilaterally decided to disband the established task team that was to deal with quantifying the amount that should be payable to workers at the entity.
This is yet another attempt by the employer to directly and deliberately attacks collective bargaining. This was a matter that was agreed on in the Bargaining Council where parties were supposed to report back on the progress that has been made. However, as a result of their determination to collapse collective bargaining, they have disbanded the task team.
Leave encashment moratorium.
When joining the Lepelle Northern Water, employees signed contracts of employment which were accompanied by conditions of services and policies which included leave encashment. The employer however unilaterally took a decision to place a moratorium on leave encashment without any consultation with workers.
As SAMWU, we are of the view that the unilateral decision by the employer to place a moratorium on leave encashment constitutes a change in the conditions of service for workers at the Lepelle Northern Water. This is yet another way in which the employer seeks to erode sound labour relations in the institution.
Insourcing of services.
SAMWU has on several occasions called on the water entity to insource services such as cleaning and security. Our call for the insourcing of these services is based on our principle as a union to see workers having job security, improved standard of living and enjoying benefits that permanent employees are currently receiving.
Importantly, our call for the insourcing of these services is based on the fact that it presents a cost benefit for the entity as the contracts that they are currently in are exorbitantly inflated with the entity paying over R19 million for these services. The entity cannot be pleading poverty whilst on the other hand dishing out millions of rands for services that can be insourced for R8 million, saving the state over 70% of what they are currently paying.
The Board has put in place a performance management plan that is skewed towards ensuring that senior manger and the Board are well remunerated, this denying the real workers who are responsible for ensuring the delivery of water to residents and businesses in the province. Despite workers ensuring that targets are met, they have however not been paid performance bonuses in the last two years. This happens while the Boards members continue to milk the entity out of millions of Rands.
Debt collection strategy.
Lepelle Northern Water is owed over R1.2 billion by municipalities and big businesses in the province. Despite huge sums that are owed to the entity that could be used to improve service delivery and better the lives of workers, management has failed to put in place a debt collection strategy leading to many defaulters continuing to enjoy free water from the entity.
Use of law firms in disciplinary hearings.
In 2020 the Board took a resolution on reducing legal costs, this was to be achieved by amongst other things not using law firms for disciplinary cases. Despite the Board resolution, management has taken a decision to appoint 20 law firms which will cost the entity millions of Rands. Our concern is that these law firms have been appointed in contravention of the Board resolution and more importantly that the appointments are aimed at conducting internal disciplinary cases against workers. It is absurd for an entity that is pleading poverty to appoint big gun lawyers to deal with internal disciplinary cases for millions of Rands whereas there are people who are employed and paid monthly by the entity to deal with labour relations issues.
Filling of vacancies.
Critical vacancies at Lepelle Northern Water remains unfilled, this includes the position of CEO that has been vacant since 2020. The failure by the entity to fill these critical positions has resulted in management failures, lack of good governance and compromised service delivery. An entity of the magnitude of Lepelle Northern Water should have stable governance to ensure it is able to deliver on its core mandate to residents and businesses in Limpopo province.
Given the above, we, the workers of Lepelle Northern Water and members of SAMWU hereby made the following demands;
On employee safety.
– That both the Olifantspoort and Phalaborwa camps be properly fenced immediately.
– That management should stop manipulating NOSA audits by forcing workers to move around hazardous items.
– That no employee should be victimised for refusing to take illegal instructions that manipulates NOSA audits.
– That all employees should be provided with proper PPE that are approved by the SABS.
On salary adjustments and outstanding matters.
– That management should immediately implement the 2020/2021 salary and wage collective agreement.
– That non-bargaining employees should have their salaries adjusted and backdated adjustment of salaries.
On danger allowance.
– That management should desist from their attempts to collapse collective bargaining.
– That the Danger Allowance Task Team be reconstituted immediately with the intention of paying workers without fail.
On leave encashment.
– That management should desist from their attempts to unilaterally change conditions of service of workers.
– That the moratorium on leave enchashment be lifted immediately.
On insourcing of services.
– That all security and cleaning tenders be terminated with immediate effect.
– That all security and cleaning staff be absorbed on a permanent basis with immediate effect.
On performance management.
– That the performance management policy of the entity be implemented as agreed to.
– That thee Board and management should stop enriching themselves at the expense of workers.
On debt collection.
– That the entity embarks on a debt collection strategy.
– That municipalities and businesses that owe the utility be pursued.
– That municipalities be engaged to ensure that they enter into an acceptable payment arrangements.
– That the Provincial Treasury assists municipalities in ensuring that they do not default on their current accounts.
On the use of law firms.
– That the 2020 Board resolution on minimising legal fees be complied with in full.
– That the engagement of the 20 legal firms be withdrawn immediately.
– That the employer ceases with immediate effect to use lawyers for internal disciplinary matters.
On filling of vacancies.
– That all vacancies to be advertised and filled.
– Priority should be given to Labour Relations vacancies so they deal with internal disciplinary matters.
– That further priority be given to the position of CEO to stabilise this institution.
On the Board.
– That the Board should fulfil their fiduciary duties without fail.
– That the Board should stop interfering in the operations of the entity.
– That Board members should remain committed to their duties or else they should resign or be dismissed by the Minister.
On victimisation of workers and union leaders.
– That the employer desist from intimidating and victimising workers, in particular union leadership with the aim of silencing them from speaking out against their shenanigans.
– That the memo issued by the Acting CEO on the 21st April seeking to discourage workers from attending this march be revoked.
– That in the interest of service delivery, management and the Board commit themselves to developing sound labour relations in the workplace.
As workers of Lepelle Northern Water, we herby hand over this memorandum of demands to management and demand a response to all grievances raised within 14 days.
Issued by SAMWU Limpopo
Deputy Provincvial Secretary
071 607 4391
SAMWU Lepelle Northern Water Chairperson
083 441 3420