Tshwane bus workers strike gridlocks city centre

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Hundreds of City of Tshwane municipal workers protest over salaries in the city centre

SOUTH Africa’s administrative capital Tshwane (Pretoria) was gridlocked for a second day on Tuesday as bus drivers disabled their vehicles and the City insisted that strikers’ wage increase demands were spurious.

In the middle of a gridlocked Tshwane Central Business District (CBD) where motorists struggled to manoeuvre for a second day on Tuesday 30th July 2019, the city of Tshwane said that the salary rise which striking municipal workers were demanding was not due to them.

As the ANC came out in support of the union, acting mayor Abel Tau said the issue of whether the City could afford the 18% wage increase was irrelevant.

‘Whether … we cannot afford it is another thing, the bottom line is that the salary increase that is being demanded is not due to the municipal employees. And for that reason, ethically and, in terms of our oath of office, it would be wrong for us to pay money that is not due to the employees of Tshwane, and I think this is the essence of what we are talking to. We are talking of something which is not due to Tshwane municipal employees.’

South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) General Secretary Koena Ramotlou rejected Tau’s standpoint.

‘It’s funny that they say the raise is not due to workers, yet in their own mayoral committee they decided on that adjustment on salaries of senior executives.

‘That adjustment in itself amounts to 18%. There are those employees who don’t fall under the bargaining council who are called Section 57 and Section 56 who have received this money.

‘Ramotlou said there was another employees’ category which fell under the bargaining council which had received the 18% adjustment.

‘Therefore, anything that is done which affects a bargaining council employee applies to all employees in that municipality based on the City’s own resolutions in the mayoral committee.

‘They must say if they do not want to negotiate,’ said Ramotlou.

The parties will meet again on Wednesday.

‘The City should be telling you what they are bringing tomorrow,’ said Ramotlou. Workers also demand an end to labour broking.

The Tshwane CBD was in gridlock for the second consecutive day on Tuesday with traffic in the city centre almost at a standstill. On Monday municipal workers went on strike, during which municipal bus drivers blocked crucial streets with buses. The striking workers are demanding salary raises of up to 18% which they want backdated to 2017.

On Monday, the CBD was congested, making it difficult for motorists who either wanted to enter or leave the inner city.

The Tshwane Metro police department reportedly said it could not move the buses because striking workers parked their buses and left. However, Tau told Daily Maverick on Tuesday that striking drivers had disabled the buses.

Asked why an earlier plan to obtain spare keys and move the buses from blocking the roads was not implemented, especially with a court interdict in hand, the acting mayor said this had not been as easy as first thought because the striking drivers had tampered with the buses, rendering them impossible to drive away, even if one had a spare key.

‘Some of the … buses have actually been vandalised to a point where to move the buses you need more than just the keys. The bus drivers have vandalised the buses. They work with the buses on a daily basis so they know what they have done to the buses.’

Ramotlou, however, denied that workers had vandalised the buses.

He said the City had a system that automatically switched off the buses.

‘They have sent in tow trucks to tow the buses. With a system like that in place there is no way that workers could have driven those buses themselves,’ said Ramotlou.

Tau said the City had roped in a service provider who towed the buses away by Tuesday afternoon. He warned that towing might damage the buses.

‘We are towing these buses as we speak. That process is underway. The only problem we might have is that they might incur further damage depending on the manner they will be towed,’ said Tau.

Municipal employees continued protesting on Tuesday, blocking roads despite a court interdict preventing them from disrupting the flow of traffic.

The blockades also affected services such as the City of Tshwane’s A Re Yeng rapid transit buses and Tshwane Bus Services operations.

The striking municipal workers are also reportedly unhappy after reports that city manager Moeketsi Mosola received a R7.5-million cash payout after agreeing to a deal with the city council. Mosola was set to step down at the end of July 2019.

The lockdown in the capital has drawn the attention of politicians, with the ANC saying the party has full confidence in Samwu and supports the union’s commitment to solving the impasse.

Acting mayor Tau said: ‘We are talking to the bargaining council, but it seems like they (the strikers) won’t budge.

‘For us, it’s not a matter of budging or not budging, it’s an issue of saying ethically, ‘do we have a legal standing to be able to do that’.

‘Now I don’t think that an entity like the City of Tshwane, which is a regulated and legal entity run in terms of the Municipal Act, would be expected to do anything illegal. So that is the essence of the stalemate.’

  • The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA) notes with great concern the grand-standing and threats of cutting public servants’ salaries, incentives and performance bonuses by the government at the time when nurses are doing the work of more than two nurses due to severe shortage of staff in many facilities.

DENOSA has cautioned both the Minister of Public Service and Administration, Senzo Mchunu, and Director-General at Treasury, Dondo Mogajane, not to be reckless in throwing wild threats of cutting salaries of public servants, phasing out performance bonuses and doing away with key staff retention incentives like Occupation-Specific Dispensation (OSD), which were seriously negotiated, due to current economic difficulties and without following the established employer-labour engagement platforms.

As statement from DENOSA said: ‘Both the Minister and Director-General told City Press and Sunday Times newspapers recently of their intentions to effect these changes, which is a direct undermining of the collective bargaining agreement starting from the top. Not only does this recklessness send a message of the poor commitment of government in keeping workers, but it may trigger wild unrest across the public service chain as it instigates chaos.

‘These threats are being made at the time when nurses in many health facilities do the work of two or more other nurses who are not hired, and now the little that keeps them in the public sector is threatened to be reduced or removed by the government.

‘Workers are not going to allow themselves to be used as sacrificial lambs when monies that could have assisted the state to honour its financial obligation from state-owned entities were allowed to be siphoned off in dubious means. Already, the retirement savings of public servants have been used to bail out these, excuse the pun, bloodied SOEs!

‘Furthermore, this recklessness may cost the country more skilled professionals. Occupation-Specific Dispensation (OSD) rewards skilled professionals the longer they stay in government employment so that they are not lost to either overseas or to the private sector due to salary competitiveness. OSD for nurses should have been reviewed more than seven years ago, but it has not.

‘And committed nurses continue to give their all to the public service. But all they get is a thank you like this!’

The union concluded: ‘DENOSA can’t wait to reject this ridiculous and insensitive proposal at the Public Sector Coordinated Bargaining Council (PSCBC) whenever it is tabled, if it will ever be tabled.’