CAPE TOWN - Worker unions have warned of a “looming war” after the City of Cape Town said on Monday that it will oppose a new salary and wage collective agreement for local governments.
The City said residents cannot afford to pay more, adding that it was unfair for government workers to receive wage increases when many people have had reductions to their income.
But unions have slammed the decision as an attempt to undermine workers’ rights and benefits.
The City’s deputy mayor, Ian Neilson, said the City took a clear stand throughout the bargaining process led by the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) - the employer body representing 257 municipalities in the country, that salary increases were not justified or affordable currently.
He said the City’s Mayoral Committee has, therefore, mandated the City to approach the South African Local Government Bargaining Council (SALGBC) for an exemption from the new salary and wage collective agreement for local government.
The City will submit its exemption notice in terms of clause 15.1 of the Wage collective agreement with the SALGBC.
Additionally, the implementation of the wage agreement clause that the City seeks exemption from- the awarding of a 3.5% increase effective from July 1 2021, and ancillary increases - will be suspended pending the outcome of the exemption application.
The process is expected to take at least 30 days.
“Our decision to oppose the wage agreement by asking to be excluded from having to implement the increases has not been taken lightly,” Neilson said.
“City staff and residents have been front of mind, but we strongly believe this is not the right time in South Africa to afford increases to government employees.
“It is not fair to our residents, many of whom are struggling due to Covid-19 and the national lockdown.
South African Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu) regional secretary Mike Khumalo said it was a “slap on the face” for workers.
“The system has been so skewed that we have accepted the abnormal to be the norm and this is why we are sitting with things like this.
“Then coming to argument of this nature, people start politicking with people’s lives, playing politics with the ANC and the DA, understanding that the majority in SALGA is ANC and for them it's like, we want the ANC to know that we can defy SALGA and we become the kicking trash between the parties playing politics, I don’t think we will accept that,” he said.
Cosatu provincial secretary Malvern De Bruyn said they will engage with unions to work on a joint approach to take against the City.
“It is quite clear the City doesn't care about the poor and workers in the City.
“As Cosatu we will not sit with our arms folded, we cannot allow the City to step on the right of workers. Samwu and Cosatu will oppose any exempt application the city will serve on SALGA,” he said.
Stop CoCT founder Sandra Dickson said the City was holding the public's inability to pay the increases “as an excuse for a one sided decision taken by mayco”.
“CoCT is stumbling from one extremely unpopular decision to the next. This time it is an all or nothing approach to their employees.
“This comes after a serious backlash from the public over tariff increases.
“No negotiation in either situation, just one harsh one sided decision by mayco,” Dickson said.
The Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu) said it was “concerning” to learn that the City would want to apply for the exemption.
“The exemptions committee would have to consider the application. It is hoped that the City of Cape Town would present a compelling case for their application.”