Johannesburg - Angry municipal workers will use the enormous improvement in perks for mayors and councillors as a bargaining tool to secure the 15% wage increase they are demanding.
The new perks announced by the SA Local Government Association (Salga) in a circular to municipalities last week include provision of bodyguards without threat analyses to all mayors and speakers in the country’s 257 councils and a R3400 monthly cellphone allowance for the country’s 9000 councillors.
Other councillors will be given bodyguards only after threat and risk analysis by the police, according to the improved perks revealed by Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Des van Rooyen.
Van Rooyen announced the tools of the trade for councillors earlier this month.
He has also approved the reintroduction of mayoral residences as a housing benefit for mayors where municipalities already have council-owned properties and the use of municipal vehicles by councillors.
In the circular, which The Star has seen, Salga brags that it has successfully lobbied for the perks.
It states that some of the newly introduced features include a sitting allowance for district municipality councillors of R1020 a day on top of their salaries, standardised cellphone allowance of R3400 for all councillors, formalising the inclusion of laptops as tools of the trade for part-time councillors, and providing tablets as alternatives to laptops.
But the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) has described the improved perks as “defying logic” and demanded they be rescinded as they were likely to cost millions.
Samwu spokesperson Papikie Mohale said that during the next round of wage negotiations at the end of January the union’s negotiators would use the improved perks to show that municipalities can afford the 15% or R3155 a month wage hike that workers are demanding.
Workers want a new minimum wage of R10000 a month from July next year.
The current minimum wage in local government is R6845 a month.
"Councils will be wasting resources, it defies logic Everyone now qualifies to get bodyguards,” said Mohale.
He added that the move was irresponsible of Van Rooyen’s department and Salga. "We urge councils with the interests of their communities at heart not to implement them.”
Mohale said mayors, speakers and bodyguards would exploit loopholes in the tools of trade document, as it did not specify the number of bodyguards officials were entitled to.
Mohale used the example of Tlhalefi Mashamaite, the former mayor of Mogalakwena Local Municipality in Limpopo, who had 27 bodyguards at the height of his battle with senior officials and other councillors more than three years ago.
In 2013, the Sunday Tribune reported that uMgungundlovu District Municipality's mayor at the time, Yusuf Bhamjee, and his deputy Thandiwe Zungu shared 16 bodyguards that cost R1.3million a year.
Mohale said bodyguards made mayors detached from the residents they were supposed to serve. "They are inaccessible to their communities,” he pointed out.
According to Mohale, even half of the R3400 a month cellphone allowance for all councillors did not make sense, as many did not return calls from residents who were reporting issues for consideration.
Mohale said municipal office workers had to work unpaid overtime to complete their tasks as they did not have laptops, while others were working in dangerous conditions without personal protective equipment or protective clothing.
”Where do Salga’s loyalties lie? With councillors or the people responsible for delivering services?” he asked.
Van Rooyen said he had consulted all nine provincial co-operative governance MECs before approving the perks.
In addition, councillors have risk insurance taken by municipalities of R1.5m for their houses and R750000 for their cars, while they also have life and disability insurance cover that is twice their annual salaries.
Salga boss Lance Joel and leaders of the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union were not available for comment on Wednesday.