Local municipal workers will support a national strike, should that be the vote of the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU). This confirmation comes after the union this week said it is concluding national balloting for a potential strike in the sector. Deputy General Secretary Dumisane Magagula said the union rejected the Facilitator’s Proposal – a document drawn up after employer-employee negotiations that is meant to identify areas of consensus.
Wage negotiations for workers in municipalities are negotiated at a national level in the South African Local Government Bargaining Council. This year, Labour is being represented by two trade unions at the bargaining council: SAMWU and the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (IMATU). The South African Local Government Association (SALGA) is an employer body representing 257 municipalities nationwide.
Most of Makana’s workforce is unionised and most belong to SAMWU.
Earlier this month SALGA was optimistic about a resolution and said the parties had agreed to extend the negotiations beyond the final round to allow the designated facilitator of the negotiations to formulate a detailed proposal. In a statement on 4 June, the Association said they remained “cautiously optimistic” that the outcomes of the latest round of negotiations might result in an agreement “that is in the best interest of municipal sustainability and labour peace”.
On 7 June 2021, negotiations facilitator Naledi Buwana-Bisiwe issued her proposal for consideration. It included:
- A three-year salary and wage agreement.
- A 4% salary increase in the first year of the agreement and projected CPI minus 1% in the outer years of the agreement.
- A total freeze on all benefits to municipal workers in the first year of the agreement (fully unfrozen in the last year of the agreement).
- Sectoral minimum wage to only increase in line with salary increases.
- Deferment of the employability of EPWP, CWP and demands for maternity and paternity leave to other processes.
- Making it easy for SALGA to, on behalf of all municipalities withdraw from this and future collective agreement.
- Finalisation of the pension fund restructuring in the sector.
SAMWU said the parties had been far apart in terms of the demands put forward by workers and the “insulting” offer put forward by SALGA and took a membership mandate on the facilitator’s proposal.
“This was to allow for our members to engage the proposal and chart a way forward that workers believed would resolve the current impasse,” Magagula said.
On 23 June, SAMWU formally wrote to SALGA to inform them of the union’s decision to reject the facilitator’s proposal.
“Our members have in their majority voted against the proposal as it does not address our demands,” said Magagula. “The union is also in the process of concluding balloting for a potential strike in the sector as required by law. The results of this process will be made known before parties in the SALGBC reconvene on 1 and 2 July 2021.
Magagula urged SAMWU members to “gear up and prepare themselves for the upcoming war with the employer in demand of decent salary increments”.
SAMWU Regional Secretary Wandile Duruwe, asked by GMDirect to comment on the possible national move to strike, said on Thursday night, “As SAMWU in Makana we can’t distance ourselves from a decision taken by the national office. So we also reject the offer from the facilitator. We reject it because we feel it won’t do justice to our needs. Prices are high and there are lots of things that people need to deal with.
“If the facilitator is giving us that offer now, it means we will go on the streets. All in all, whatever the national office is saying there, we fully agree with it at a local level.”
Duruwe said in Makana, 446 municipal employees are SAMWU members and 110 belong to IMATU.