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Cape Town - Top managers in the City of Cape Town’s Water and Sanitation Department have received salary increases, to the chagrin of the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu), which called the pay hike insensitive, given the city’s water situation.

The union is at loggerheads with the city over its Organisational Development and Transformation Plan (ODTP), which it views as putting its members at a disadvantage in many respects.

The union said its workers were at the coalface of the water crisis, yet received no financial incentives or rewards.

The recent salary grading of certain senior officials in the Water Demand Management (WDM) branch within the Water and Sanitation Department, comes after the finalisation of the ODTP in June last year which resulted in the restructuring of certain departments and which included salary hikes.

The WDM apparently saw fit not to review its structure in line with the ODTP, but at the beginning of this year upgraded salaries of senior officials, whose annual packages now range from R1.178million to R1.39m.

The previous annual salary packages ranged from R941951 to just over a million rand.

The WDM is tasked with promoting effective service delivery to ensure sustainable water service to Cape Town citizens.

Samwu is furious at the “lack of financial prudence” by the city in light of the water crisis which led to some sectors, including agriculture, shedding their workforce.

“The salary increases is a clear sign of a complete disregard for the people, including workers who are working non-stop to deal with water leaks and burst pipes. Their annual salaries are equivalent to what some senior managers get as performance bonuses,” said Samwu metro regional secretary Xolile Ncayo.

Sources at the City of Cape Town claimed that there was no justification for the salary upgrades as most officials had not fulfilled their mandate and that the city was not collecting sufficient revenue due to the water restrictions in place.

“What are they being rewarded for?"

“Just like at Eskom, where managers were getting bonuses while the company was not performing well, the city has fallen into the same trap,” said a source.

The source said lower-level employees were overlooked by the ODTP, which saw salaries of senior management getting regraded, more positions being created at senior management resulting in the structure being bloated at the top and a few employees at operational level, “the core of service delivery”.

According to Ncayo, the city had also brought back retirees as consultants in the Water and Sanitation Department six months after they had taken pension.

“Any company worth its salt knows there should be a succession plan wherein experts in that field will transfer skills to the next in line. However, in this department a certain section of the population is allowed to work until they die in service.”

Samwu also questioned the city’s expenditure on purchasing of a building in Sacks Circle, Bellville, and the building of another in Voortrekker Road to house senior managers.
“Samwu takes a dim view of all these developments and we have registered our dissatisfaction on a number of occasions. Some of these issues have been brought to the attention of the public protector but to date we haven’t heard any response or feedback."

“The sophisticated corruption which may have led to the water crisis goes on unabated, while the perpetrators are being paid for their crimes,” Ncayo said.

Another source criticised the city for the salary upgrades, saying an organisation that was financially prudent would have put measures in place to curb expenditure such as a moratorium on salary regrades for managers filling non-core vacancies.

In its response, the city said dealing with the water crisis did not negate the “need for required administrative processes”.

“The city needs to ensure fair and equitable compensation for work done and the level of performance achieved.

“At this time, Water and Sanitation staff are under extreme pressure to consistently perform well beyond normal levels and it would disadvantage staff to postpone the administrative process related to remuneration,” city spokesperson Priya Reddy said.

Weekend Argus