File image: Dumisani Sibeko

Rustenburg -The South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) will not rush into signing an agreement which does not have any substantive increments for workers, general secretary Simon Mathe said on Thursday.

He said the union rejected the opening proposal of a five year agreement, the employer body SA Local Government Association (Salga) tabled at the South African Local Government Bargaining Council, during the first round of salary negotiation in Durban.

"We are in no position to entertain a five year collective agreement which does not have any substantive increments for our members and municipal workers in general. We can only entertain such a proposal only if our members are offered 15 percent or R3,155 annually for the duration of such an agreement."

He said it was the first time in the history of salary and wage negotiations that the employer proposes a five year collective agreement.

"We are therefore convinced that Salga has not opened this round of negotiations in good faith, we have therefore rejected this proposal as it is laughable and insulting to municipal workers. The fact that Salga seemingly wants to blame workers for the difficulties which municipalities are currently in is very disappointing."

He said the employer did not want to concede to the R10,000 minimum wage labour tabled,  arguing that local government minimum wage was double what the national government and National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) have approved, was an indication that the employer do not care about municipal workers.

"Municipal workers can't be blamed for the fruitless, irregular and wasteful expenditures which are continually incurred by municipalities. This is money which would go a long way in ensuring the survival and stability of municipalities while also ensuring that there is surplus resources which can be redirected to remunerating municipal workers."

Samwu and the Independent Municipal Union tabled joint demands of a single year agreement which included an across the board 15 percent salary increase or R3,155, whichever is greater, R2,000 housing allowance for all employees, and R10,000 minimum wage for all municipal workers.

The unions wanted all benefits and conditions of service linked to salaries to increase by the same percentage as the across the board salary increase.

The employer presented salary and wage proposal of a five year collective agreement, 4.6 percent in the first year of the collective agreement and CPI plus 0.25 percent for the remainder of the collective agreement. 

Housing allowance to increase inline with the five year collective agreement, minimum wage to also increase inline with the five year collective agreement. 

Mathe said the demand for a R2,000 housing allowance as justifiable given the fact that municipal workers were told by banking institutions that they earn too little to qualify for housing finance while the very same government they worked very hard for, tells them that they do not qualify for low cost (RDP) housing thus leaving them in limbo.

"The very same people who are in the coalface of service delivery are overlooked while councillors across the country are receiving housing allowances of over R6,500 monthly irrespective of them being a home owner of not," Mathe said. 

"When it comes to municipal workers, they are told that they only deserve R749 monthly of which home ownership is a prerequisite. It is for this reason that we will stick to our demand of an across the board R2,000 housing allowance for municipal workers."

He said Samwu would like salary negotiations concluded speedily, before the current agreement lapses in June 2018, but would not rush into signing an agreement which does not have any substantive increments for municipal workers.