6 October 2023
SAMWU welcomes dismissal of Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality exemption application.
The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) notes and welcomes the dismissal of the exemption application by Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality to be exempted from the last leg of the 2021 salary and wage collective agreement concluded in the South African Local Government Bargaining Council (SALGBC). According to this agreement, municipal workers throughout the country were supposed to receive a 5.4% salary and wage increase effective from 1 July 2023.
Through the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality brough an exemption application to be exempted from paying workers at the municipality the salary and wage increases that are due to them. Of great concern to us is that the application was brought by SALGA, the representative of the country’s municipalities.
As SAMWU we view the active involvement of SALGA in exemption applications on behalf of municipalities as an enabler for municipalities to renege on collective agreements which were concluded and signed by trade unions and SALGA on behalf of municipalities. It cannot be correct that a party that was involved in the negotiations and conclusion of the agreement is now the one actively encouraging municipalities to deny workers their salary and wage increases. For us, this action is tantamount to union bashing and undermining collective bargaining in the sector.
We have as a Union picked up that many municipalities have, in an attempt to undermine collective bargaining and deny workers their salary increases, made it fashionable to apply for exemptions months after workers were due to receive their increases. In the case of Enoch Mgijima, the original exemption, which was defective, was made in the month wherein workers were supposed to receive their increases. Essentially, the municipality sought the ratification of its decision to deny workers their salary increases as the municipality had already exempted itself.
We are however pleased that the Senior Commissioner, who was assigned this exemption application saw through the inconsistencies and that the application was frivolous as the municipality could not prove beyond reasonable doubt that it is not in a position to pay workers their salary and wage increases as agreed in the SALGBC. In delivering the ruling on the 29th September 2023, the Commissioner dismissed arguments made by the municipality that its wage bill was bloated, while also emphasizing that the financial situation which the municipality finds itself in is of its own making and as such, workers should not be blamed for a crisis which they did not create.
As SAMWU, we are of the view that the municipality does not have any financial challenges but rather financial management and governance issues coupled with continuous flouting of Municipal Finance Management Act as revealed by the Auditor General. Additionally, if the municipality really had financial challenges, it would have applied for the Eskom Relief Grant which was announced earlier this year by the Minister of Finance. The decision not to apply for this grant is indicative of a municipality that has financial resources to cover its operations and pay creditors.
The ruling by the Comissioner reflects the importance of upholding fair labour practices and the rights of workers. Enoch Mgijima Municipal has been ordered to review and adjust its budget promptly, prioritizing salary and wage increases for its employees, in strict accordance with the provisions of the salary and wage collective agreement. The municipality has further been directed to pay stipulated salary and wage increases for the period spanning from July 2023 to February 2024 on the normal pay day toward the end of February 2024. Subsequently, the municipality is directed to continue paying the salary and wage increases on a monthly basis for the remainder of the financial year.
SAMWU applauds and welcomes the award, which affirms our commitment to safeguarding the rights and interests of municipal workers. This outcome is a testament to the importance of adherence to collective agreements and the just compensation of our hardworking members. The Union remains dedicated and committed to advocating for the rights of municipal workers and ensuring that they receive fair compensation and treatment. We will continue to monitor the implementation of the award to ensure that Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality complies with its obligations as ordered.
Issued by SAMWU Eastern Cape
Deputy Provincial Secretary
(081 034 9940)
Chris Hani Regional Secretary