South African municipal workers demand 15% increase

SAMWU members on a march demanding an end to ANC government privatisation

South Africa’s largest local government trade union the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu), is set to table numerous demands for its members – including a 15 per cent or R6,000 wage increase for all municipal workers.

Other demands that Samwu is making include:

  • R3,000 housing allowance;
  • Increasing sectoral minimum wage from R9,000 to R15,000;
  • Six months of fully paid maternity, paternity and adoption leave;
  • 70 per cent employer contribution to medical aid;
  • Provision of ‘service stands’ for municipal workers to build homes.

Citing the rising cost of living, inflation, and the consumer price index (CPI), the union representing more than 160,000 of the country’s estimated 350,000 municipal workers has brought forward these demands ahead of its current wage agreement that is coming to an end on 30 June.
An initial three-year wage deal was struck in 2021, where parties agreed to increases of 3.5 per cent (2021/22), 4.9 per cent (2022/23) and 5.4 per cent (2023/24).
New wage talks with the South African Local Government Bargaining Council will begin later on this month.
SAMWU general secretary Dumisane Magagula said: ‘We believe that municipalities should be paying these salaries because workers should be getting what they deserve for the service that they give.’
With inflation sitting at 6 per cent, Magagula said that a 15 per cent wage increase is ‘very minimal’, and the union is rather asking for the ‘correction’ of salaries, which he says are far too low.
He added: ‘We can’t be having bread winners earning less than R10,000.
‘All entry-level positions for municipal workers should have a wage of R15,000 (increase of R6,000).’
The next round of wage negotiations will follow widely publicised standoffs between municipalities and municipal workers that, in some instances, brought service delivery.
Last year, the City of Tshwane cited a shortage of funds – R600 million worth – for being unable to implement the final stage of a wage deal. Tshwane applied for an exemption; however was unsuccessful.
Metro employees in Tshwane had been involved in numerous work stoppages over four months as a result.
Meanwhile, the SA Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (Sactwu) has called on clothing companies and retailers to ensure that companies that supply them with goods comply with employment and labour laws.
Etienne Vlok, the national industrial policy officer for Sactwu, said that work places around the country do not meet health and safety requirements and said that the government must take action to make sure that they comply with the law.
Vlok said: ‘Sactwu calls on the Department of Labour to institute regular compulsory monthly inspections of companies and, in doing so, they clearly and consistently track the situation at the company.’
Secondly, Vlok said harsher measures should be imposed on companies which do not comply with the law to ensure that they correct their misbehaviour.
Vlok added: ‘The third one is important. It’s fine to only look at companies’ practices but if one starts to follow the money, the question is who benefits from these practices?
‘Sactwu calls on design houses and retailers to ensure that they insist that companies that exhibit bad practices, correct their devious behaviour, and if this doesn’t happen they must withdraw their orders,’ he said, adding that a large part of the responsibility fell on them.
He said several companies in the Newcastle area of the country grossly underpaid workers, treated them terribly.
He called for the same measures to be applied to all these non-compliant companies.

  • Bus operators and unions in the passenger bus sector are locked in tense negotiations as wage talks ended without an agreement.

Wage negotiations deadlocked almost three weeks ago, with trade unions demanding more than double what industry leaders are willing to pay.
The South African Road Passenger Bargaining Council has now been roped in to mediate on the matter to avert crippling strike action by workers.
Trade unions declared a dispute after an unsuccessful first round of wage negotiations in February and they are expected to call strike action next week.
The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) has stuck to its guns for a 15 per cent increase across the board plus a range of other demands.
This includes four months paid maternity leave and full compulsory healthcare for all workers.
Negotiations reached an impasse when the unions refused to accept an offer of 4 per cent.
Bus operators are currently caucusing over calls for a revised offer.
They are expected to table a new offer at this afternoon’s plenary.
A protracted dispute could spell trouble for long-distance commuters with workers from Greyhound, Intercape, Putco, and Bojanala threatening to down tools during the Easter period.

  • A former senior government minister in South Africa has left the governing African National Congress (ANC), with a blistering attack on the party.

Nathi Nhleko said it was ‘painful’ to see the ANC turn into a party he no longer recognised, accusing it of introducing austerity measures and dismantling state-owned companies.
Nhleko was close to the scandal-hit ex-President Jacob Zuma.
Earlier this year, the ANC suspended Zuma for backing a rival party.
An ANC official responded to Nhleko’s resignation by saying ‘good riddance’.
Zuma joined the new uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) party in December, and is spearheading its campaign for votes in the build-up to the 29th May general election.
Meanwhile, the US has imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa for ‘corruption and human rights abuses’.
The order also affects other senior leaders in the country – blocking their assets in the US and barring them from unofficial travel there.
The new sanctions replace a broader programme that was introduced two decades ago.
The White House said in a statement: ‘We continue to witness gross abuses of political, economic, and human rights.
‘The targeting of civil society and severe restrictions on political activity have stifled fundamental freedoms, while key actors, including government leaders, have siphoned off public resources for personal gains,’ it added.
‘These illicit activities support and contribute to a global criminal network of bribery, smuggling, and money laundering that impoverish communities in Zimbabwe, southern Africa, and other parts of the world.’
The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, claimed that there were ‘multiple cases of abductions, physical abuse, and unlawful killing’ in Zimbabwe that had left people ‘living in fear’.
The White House said it was ‘refocusing and elevating its efforts to hold accountable the individuals and entities that are responsible for this exploitation’.

  • In Kenya health workers were on strike on Tuesday demanding better pay and conditions, the absorption of Universal Health Coverage, harmonisation of contracts, and the delay in posting interns.

Additionally, the refusal to sign recognition agreements with various unions has further aggravated the situation.
The Clinical Officers’ Union (KUCO) confirmed the commencement of the strike, indicating no progress in discussions thus far.
The strike comes in the wake of escalating tensions within the healthcare sector, marked by recent protests and a concerning incident involving the shooting of a union leader.
The Ministry of Health (MoH) held meetings with representatives from the health workers’ unions in a bid to avert the strike but they are not able to come to an agreement.

  • Lecturers in public universities in Sierra Leone started a strike on Monday that will last until Friday, as declared by the Academic Staff Association. This action stems from their dissatisfaction with unmet welfare demands.

In a press release from UASA, it was emphasised that despite extensive discussions with university and polytechnic authorities since August of the previous year, the essential requests of the association remain unaddressed. The extended period of inaction on these critical issues has led UASA to announce its course of action. The demands of the lecturers include the payment of severance benefits clearing backlog payments for promoted staff, and implementing revised rent and medical allowances.