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DA calls on Samwu to act against striking Tshwane municipal workers

A file picture of Tshwane municipal workers and Samwu members protesting in the Pretoria CBD. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

A file picture of Tshwane municipal workers and Samwu members protesting in the Pretoria CBD. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Aug 10, 2023


Pretoria - The DA in Tshwane has called out the South African Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu), urging it to take “immediate and decisive” action against striking municipal employees.

Workers affiliated to Samwu have been engaged in a series of protests since last month, demanding a 5.4% wage increase.

The strike, declared illegal and unprotected, had hampered the metro’s service delivery efforts, with residents being denied access to medical facilities, electricity and water, while waste had been left uncollected.

In a move seen to be supporting mayor Cilliers Brink, the DA said the union’s lack of action was “deeply concerning”.

Samwu has denied it had sanctioned the continuous strike action.

The DA’s Tshwane caucus chairperson Jacqui Uys opposed the union’s assertions, saying the reality faced by the city and the residents was telling a different story.

She said: “While Samwu may not have officially sanctioned this strike, its lack of action to stop the violence and intimidation is deeply concerning.

“It’s high time for the union to step up, guide its members towards reason and restraint, and lead them through lawful bargaining processes.”

She praised the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu) for taking, what she called, a “responsible stance” after it had issued a directive to its members urging them to exercise financial responsibility while its leadership navigated the legal channels of bargaining with the city.

Uys bemoaned the metro’s salary expenditure. “The city’s salary expenditure has surged by a staggering R2.5 billion in 2023, climbing from an annual R9.1bn to R11.6bn.

“In the 2022/2023 period, a 3.5% salary increment was enforced, building upon the substantial 18% raise awarded in 2020 due to a salary benchmarking exercise outside of the bargaining council process.

“This 18% hike was conceded in the wake of a similar tumultuous episode involving an unprotected strike, violence, and intimidation. Regrettably, this decision to cave to intimidation and violence partly contributed to our present predicament,” she said.

Uys was adamant the party stood behind Brink after he issued 38 dismissal letters to employees who participated in the “unlawful” demonstrations for almost two weeks.

The Pretoria News recently reported that an additional 89 non-duty personnel were handed warning letters, with more dismissal letters expected to be issued to the striking employees.

“We implore Samwu to act responsibly, prioritising the best interests of its members. Samwu must urgently call on its members to stop with this destructive strike and adhere to the legal procedures,” Uys said.

Samwu regional secretary Precious Theledi ignored questions from Pretoria News sent on Tuesday.

Among the questions was whether the strike action would continue.

Meanwhile, Brink has called on workers who were intimidated by protesting members of the union to gather evidence for the city to seek a court order against those individuals and the strike action.

“Do you know any of the individuals involved? Because the labour court has told us if you can’t provide those details, we can’t grant you the contempt of court order necessary to enforce the law,” Brink said.

The mayor vowed to protect those who came forward with names of the culprits. ‘’If you refuse to say who is intimidating you and you refuse to give an account of the circumstances of your intimidation, surely that is also not we have to break out of this cycle of just escaping accountability, and the city will provide police protection and private security. We have all of these measures,” said Brink.

Pretoria News