South African Public Works Programme workers demand permanent jobs

SIPHIWO NDUNYANA (centre, light trousers) with DEMAWUSA members outside the municipal headquarters in Nelson Mandela Bay in Port Elizabeth

AROUND 80 Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) workers protested outside the Port Elizabeth City Hall on Tuesday, demanding that the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality rescind a recent resolution against insourcing them.

Workers are demanding the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality hire them on a permanent basis, and have accused it of corruption and mismanagement.
The workers’ contracts through labour brokers ended in December 2018. Then, after negotiations, they were rehired through the Expanded Public Works Programme in January this year.
They promised to intensify their protests should their demands not be met. Water leak repair technician Monde Petani said he is ‘willing to fight to the death’ until the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality reverses its decision not to insource him and other workers.
‘The ANC and the DA have shown their true colours … I even regret voting for the ANC in the first place,’ said Petani.
Petani has been working for the municipality for 13 years – at first under a labour broker. He said he was being underpaid by the labour broker and had no benefits when its contract was terminated in 2018.
On Tuesday, Petani joined about 80 Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) workers who protested outside the Port Elizabeth City Hall, demanding that the municipality reverse its decision not to take them onto the permanent staff.
The protest was led by the Democratic Municipal and Allied Workers Union of South Africa (DEMAWUSA), and other workers who had been working under labour brokers until January 2018 when the municipality terminated the companies’ contracts.
The workers were left unemployed for nearly two years, but were hired again in January 2020 under the Expanded Public Works Programme – as plumbers, water and electricity meter readers, security guards and seasonal staff.
Petani said they had submitted several petitions to the municipality demanding permanent employment. He said they also planned to ask the Public Protector to investigate.
‘People trusted with public money are looting, while the metro is rotting with uncollected rubbish. Sewage is flowing all over and no one cares to fix the problem. I want the Public Protector to investigate this municipality,’ Petani alleged.
Siphiwo Ndunyana of DEMAWUSA added: ‘The ANC and DA came together last week and reversed the workers’ achievements when they voted against insourcing.
‘They destroyed South African Airways, they bankrupted Eskom and Transnet, they looted SABC, and now they want to loot the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality. We will not allow that to happen.’
Ndunyana said protests would intensify until their demands were met.
The protesters handed over a petition to the municipality’s head of petitions, Thembisile Mgwanza. The petition calls for a special Covid-19 danger allowance of R7,000 per worker per month. It also demands that the municipality insource all workers in accordance with a 4th December 2018 council resolution.
Mgwanza has seven days to respond before the group say they will return in larger numbers.
In October over a thousand people marched from Hanover Street, District Six, to the Cape Town Civic Centre and on to Parliament on Wednesday morning to demand jobs.
The group, led by the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) and the Assembly of the Unemployed, handed over a five-point memorandum as well as 7,000 jobseeker applications to the City of Cape Town’s City Manager, Lungelo Mbandazayo.
Marchers came from across the city, with posters which read: ‘Fight budget cuts, tax the rich, Farm workers demand land,’ and ‘Equal rights for unemployed people.’
SAMWU member Craig van Dalen said he had worked for a city subcontractor as a handyman for eight months as part of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP). When he and 95 other workers went to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to get their temporary contracts made permanent, they were fired, he said. He wanted his job back, he said.

  • The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) is planning a major strike action at the end of November in response to the government’s decision to freeze public sector wages.

The union said it will convene a national day of action in the form of marches to be directed to both the union building and national parliament on 26th November 2020.
‘The action is aimed at physically collecting our money as Public Servants from Tito and to raise sharply the issue of the onslaught on collective bargaining, austerity measures and neoliberal policies by National Treasury and the intended wage freeze,’ the union said.
The union accused finance minister Tito Mboweni and National Treasury of reversing ‘the hard-won gains of workers while peeing on collective bargaining.
‘They are intending to cut R60 billion in 2021/22, R90 billion in 2022/23 and R150 billion in 2023/24 from the public sector wage bill and they have already started with the R37 billion from the last leg of the 2018 wage agreement.’
Nehawu said that it ‘will never accept a wage freeze on behalf of its members and workers.
‘Furthermore,’ it added, ‘we condemn the misleading statement by Mr Mboweni that engagements are taking place, creating an impression that we agree with the wage freeze or the non-implementation of salary increases for the current financial year.
‘We will never enter into any discussion that seeks to worsen the terms and conditions of work of our members and the working class in general, nor negotiate a signed collective agreement.
‘Nehawu has an estimated membership of over 235,000, and is closely affiliated with trade union federation Cosatu.’

  • In his Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) on Wednesday 28th October, Mboweni said that the National Treasury proposed a three-year wage freeze in an effort to stabilise the spiralling public sector wage bill.

‘About R36.5 billion has been reduced from the compensation of employees, mainly from a freeze in salary increases,’ he said.
In supporting documents, Treasury said the government proposes growth in the public service wage bill of 1.8% in the current year and average annual growth of 0.8% over the 2021 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period.
‘To achieve these targets, which are essential for fiscal sustainability, the government has not implemented the third year of the 2018 wage agreement.
‘Furthermore, the budget guidelines proposed a wage freeze for the next three years to support fiscal consolidation,’ the Treasury said.
‘Additional options that are also set to be explored include harmonising the allowances and benefits available to public servants, reconsidering pay progression rules and reviewing occupation specific dispensations.
‘The next round of wage negotiations is due to start soon and work is underway to formulate the government’s position,’ the Treasury stated.
‘In addition, the government is coordinating work relating to developing a comprehensive public sector remuneration strategy for the medium to long term. This will include public office bearers, state-owned companies, public entities and local government.
‘The strategy will seek to better balance competing interests on the basis of fairness, equity and affordability.’