Striking workers in eThekwini face ‘dismissal’

Trash left on the street during the municipality worker's strike. Picture: Bongani Mbatha/Independent Newspapers

Trash left on the street during the municipality worker's strike. Picture: Bongani Mbatha/Independent Newspapers

Published Mar 8, 2024


Workers in the eThekwini Municipality who embarked on an illegal strike that brought the city to its knees have 10 days to save their jobs.

The municipality said it had issued 79 workers with notices of misconduct relating to their participation in the strike and they are required to make submissions within 10 days stating why they should not be dismissed.

The workers, from the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) have been on strike since last week demanding to be paid the same wages as paid by other metros.

However, the South African Local Government Association (Salga) has said the wage increase being demanded was the subject of negotiations at the bargaining council and no metros had implemented the increases.

The strike has been characterised by a disruption of services, threats, intimidation and violence directed at workers who are not taking part.

eThekwini previously said workers had until the end of business on Wednesday to return to work or face dismissal.

But the state of the city, with refuse piling up on every corner on Thursday, suggested the workers did not heed the warning.

The action announced by the metro came as a report on the strike tabled before the executive committee on Tuesday showed it would cost the City close to R282 million to implement the wage demand.

Municipal spokesperson Gugu Sisilana said: “These employees, from different units, face various charges in relation to their participation in the unlawful industrial action which started on February 27.

The employees served with misconduct notices are required to make submissions within a period of 10 days stating why they should not be dismissed.

“The municipality again reiterates that it has not received a memorandum of grievances or a petition from Samwu apart from a one-page paper with Ekurhuleni Municipality pay scales that was submitted to the office of the City manager on February 27.

“With regard to the category 10 wage curve, it must again be highlighted that the categorisation of municipalities and the consequent wage curve of eThekwini Municipality is still under negotiation at a national level as it is a national competence.”

“The municipality has received concerning reports regarding members of the public alerting striking workers about teams that are working in various areas to restore services, which has led to the attack of some employees.

“Many communities have been without water and electricity for several days while patients have also sadly been unable to access health care,” said Sisilana.

She added that the municipality was working to restore the services that have been disrupted.

In a report tabled before the city’s executive committee on Tuesday it was revealed that the municipality would have to pay R283 122 146 a year in total salary plus staff benefits.

It added that if category 10 salary scales were implemented, some employees benefit, while others may not benefit, irrespective of grade.

“From the calculations, 3 017 employees’ pay rate would remain the same, 13 985 employees would see a difference of R500 or less a month in their basic salary and 20 executives would see a difference of over R5 000 a month in their basic salary,” it said.

Opposition parties have expressed concerns about this increase.

DA councillor Thabani Mthethwa said while they respected the rights of the employer and employee to negotiate, they believed every cent the municipality had should go towards service delivery.

“If the money is put into fixing the infrastructure the municipality would be able to service the community and generate more revenue,” Mthethwa said.

ActionSA councillor Alan Beesley said the funds required to implement the wage demands were unaffordable. The municipality requires funds to fix the rapidly collapsing infrastructure and to move funds to meet the workers demands will not be in the best interest of the city.

“It is time that the political leadership, management and employees of eThekwini put the needs of residents and businesses first. The political leadership, management and employees must remember that they serve the residents and businesses of eThekwini and not the other way round.”

Mlondi Mkhize, the ANC eThekwini region spokesperson, said the workers taking part in illegal strikes should be aware it can trigger severe consequences.

“The workers should remember that staying away from work could cost them their jobs, in an environment where it is hard to get a decent job with benefits. When the workers go back home they should consider their individual problems and protect their families by protecting their jobs,” said Mkhize.

Mkhize said there is an expectation that the leaders of the municipality will take action if the situation persists.

The Mercury