File picture: Itumeleng English/Independent Media

Mbombela - The Msukaligwa local municipality in Ermelo in Mpumalanga has fired 200 workers after they embarked on an “illegal strike” over a wage curve dispute, the municipality said on Monday.

Spokesman for Msukaligwa local municipality, Mandla Zwane, told the African News Agency (ANA) that the dismissed workers were employed in sections that provided basic services, including water and electricity, to communities prior to their dismissal. He said the strike had left many areas in the municipality without water and electricity.

“The municipality has served the dismissed workers with letters of dismissal today [Monday],” said Zwane.

“The workers went on an illegal strike as they wanted to be paid according to the grade four of this municipality. They assumed that going to this grade will enable them to earn more money, but only a few will benefit. This [wage grade] matter is part of a protracted legal process. The insinuation that the municipality is not willing to implement the wage curve is just a hyperbolic allegation.”

The workers first embarked on a strike towards the end of October, and they continued staging occasional protests at the entrance of the municipality’s headquarters in Ermelo, added Zwane.

He said the strike was illegal because the workers did not follow proper labour processes, which included going to the bargaining council first to negotiate with the employer.

Zwane said the dismissal of the workers had resulted in a shortage of staff in the municipality, but added that the delivery of services would not be affected.

“Basic services did not reach the people because of the strike, and we obtained a court order on October 27 against it. Yes, there is a shortage of staff but we have now appointed a contractor who has restored 90% of the power in the affected areas,” he said.

Mpumalanga secretary of the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu), Saul Simelane, said the municipality did not give the dismissed workers a proper platform to hold talks as part of the bargaining process.

“We view the dismissal as a union bashing,” said Simelane.

“We have labour forum meetings that are supposed to sit every month between the employer and our members, but they did not take place. Nobody was listening to our members and the employer did not attend the meetings they held. That is why our members took part in that industrial action.”

Samwu would soon hold talks with the municipality in an attempt to have the dismissed workers reinstated to their positions, added Simelane.

The dismissed workers could not be reached for comment.