The latest municipal workers’ wage increase of 6.5 percent has been rejected by one of the unions, even before the fourth round of negotiations gets under way in Durban.

Following two weeks of consultations with their members, the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu) made no secret that they were returning to negotiations to demand more.

Imatu, the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) and the SA Local Government Association (Salga), as the employer, were expected to return to the negotiation table in Durban today.

While Samwu, representing most workers, decided not to reveal its position after consulting with its members, Imatu declared yesterday that it was rejecting facilitator Yunis Shaik’s proposal.

In an attempt to break the current deadlock, Shaik put a mediator’s proposal of a 6.5 percent wage increase on the table and gave unions time to consult before talks resumed today.

The 6.5 percent relates only to the basic salary. Other areas still to be negotiated on and agreed to include the employers’ contributions to medical aid and retirement funds.

“In essence, Imatu has rejected the 6.5 percent salary increase, the multi-year agreement and the progressive reduction of employer contributions to medical aid.

“We have, however, broadly accepted the proposals regarding the rationalisation of pension fund contributions and opening up discussions to amend the Main Collective Agreement and Disciplinary Code,” explained Imatu deputy general secretary Craig Adams.

Speaking to The Star from Durban, Samwu’s deputy general secretary, Walter Theledi, said his union was going into the negotiations with a mandate from its members – “but we can’t reveal our position until we have put our demands on the table”.

Samwu previously indicated that Shaik’s proposed settlement of 6.5 percent was “far from the union’s mandate”, adding that it was “going to be a tough job to take the proposal back to workers”.

But Shaik’s proposal was some improvement from Salga’s initial offer of 4.5 percent, which unions said was a below inflation rate increase.

Samwu was demanding an 11 percent salary increase and an improvement in the existing minimum wage of R4 600.

Imatu dropped from 13 percent to 11.5 percent, or R1 750, whichever is greater.

Samwu and Imatu have both accused Salga of negotiating in bad faith and offering “dismal” salary increases.

Samwu’s Theledi accused Salga of “antagonism” and not negotiating in good faith in an interview with The Star last week. “Salga is actually not negotiating but is imposing and telling us what to accept,” he said.

Theledi cited the unions’ history with Salga, saying the municipalities have “never come to an agreement with workers without a strike because of their antagonistic attitude”.