Economy / 6 August 2011, 11:31am / Thabiso Thakali
Militant municipal workers union Samwu has given the local government association 10 days to meet workers’ demands or face “a total shutdown of all municipal services”.
On Friday Samwu put its more than 145 000 members across the country on standby to embark on an indefinite strike on Monday, August 15 if its demands for an 18 percent wage increase, or a minimum R2 000 a month hike across the board, are not met.
The mass action will cripple 262 municipalities countrywide, disrupting rubbish removal, water supply, accounts and other municipal service delivery.
The union said on Friday that conciliation efforts between the SA Local Government Association (Salga) and Samwu in the bargaining council had failed.
Mthandeki Nhlapo, Samwu general secretary, said the union had exhausted all avenues and that a general strike was the last tactic available to them.
Salga is offering union members a 6 percent pay rise across the board, which Samwu has rejected, accusing Salga of failing to “understand workers’ needs and difficulties when it comes to day-to-day living”.
“The union membership from around the country has indicated that they are ready and willing to embark on this industrial action,” said Nhlapo. “We cannot allow negotiations to proceed without a resolution. If Salga was committed to the negotiations we would have resolved this matter by now.”
Nhlapo said the strike was also motivated by the large pay gap between municipal managers and workers.
“If we continue to expand the wage gap between managers and the workers, there will be no stability in this country,” he warned. “A lot of money and state resources are spent on outsourcing work to private companies instead of meeting the needs of workers.”
Nhlapo said contrary to what has been said about workers demanding double-digit wage increases, workers ought to ask for nothing less because of the poverty in the country.
He said the strike would extend to the essential services sector and possibly the water sector after the union also rejected a 4.6 percent increase to workers by the SA Association of Water Utilities.
“If workers in the water sector strike, there will be a water crisis. Almost 60 to 70 percent of workers in South Africa’s water boards are Samwu members,” he added.
He said South Africa should not be a place where workers are treated like “sacrificial lambs”.
“How can a municipal manager who earns more than R1 million per annum ask a worker who earns only R54 000 a year to consider the economic impact of demanding higher wages? We need to deal with the economy of this country.”
Samwu president Sam Malope said although Samwu strikes had been associasted with ill-discipline and trashing streets, the union was dealing with such behaviour.
“It has happened among our members, but we have seen less of it in the last strike,” he said. “Our demands are reasonable and you may find that we may end up conceding to percentages not even close to the 18 percent we are asking for.”
On Friday Salga’s spokeswoman Milisa Kentane said the association was aware of Samwu’s intention to strike.
l Rea Vaya bus operator Piotrans told The City of Johannesburg last night that it would fire its drivers, who are currently on an illegal strike, if they did not not return to work on Monday morning. - Saturday Star