Municipal workers union, Imatu (Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union) has won the arbitration battle to stop the Newcastle local municipality in KwaZulu-Natal from freezing salary increments for the 2023-2024 period.
The IFP (Inkatha Freedom Party) led municipality in northern KwaZulu-Natal wanted to be exempted from implementing a collective bargaining agreement binding all municipalities to effect salary increments (5.4 percent) for its employees from July this year.
The agreement was entered into by Salga (South African Local Government Association), Imatu and Samwu (South African Municipal Workers Union) at a national level.
This was to include increases for medical aid, pension fund and other benefits and the Newcastle local municipality was no exception.
In filing for the exemption, the municipality joined Tshwane (Pretoria) Metro and Enoch Mgijima local municipality in the Eastern Cape that also cited financial challenges.
The arbitration panel found that the municipality did not follow the correct procedures when applying for the exemption.
The exemption filed on June 7, 2023, by municipal manager Zamani Mcineka was not authorised by the council as required by the law.
The arbitrator noted that a council resolution, authorising the exemption application, was subsequently obtained, two months later (on 10 August 2023).
However, the subsequent council resolution did not, and could not, ratify the conduct of the Municipal Manager in submitting the exemption application without council approval.
The arbitrator therefore agreed with Imatu and ruled that the municipality’s exemption application was not properly authorised.
The municipality was yet to respond when IOL asked whether it had the money to back pay the staff and later effect the increases.
The municipality’s response will be added as soon as it is received.
The northern KwaZulu-Natal municipality has been under fire for the past few months.
In October last year it was forced by the national Treasury to review its budget.
The department said the budget was unrealistic.
IOL previously reported how in December last year the municipality blew R2.7 million on a poorly attended gala dinner for Salga games held in the city.
A few weeks ago the municipality missed a crucial payment to Eskom for a historic debt for bulk power supplied to it.
According to the Mayor of the municipality, Xolani Dube, their financial woes started in 2012 while the ANC was still in power and they inherited the financial challenges in November 2021 when they took over.