Pretoria - The City of Tshwane’s bid to be exempted from paying salary increases to workers has been scuppered as the South African Local Government Bargaining Council (SALGBC) yesterday dismissed its exemption application.
The ruling was made on the back of the ongoing unprotected strike by workers affiliated to the SA Municipal Workers Union.They are demanding a 5.4% salary increase for 2023/2024 financial year.
The city has repeatedly pleaded poverty, saying its financial position was too precarious to afford a R600 million budget annually towards salary increases.
Municipal spokesperson Selby Bokaba said the bargaining council’s ruling provided grounds for review and that the city “will immediately begin the requisite work to approach the Labour Court on an urgent basis to review this ruling”.
“This is disappointing as the city has presented solid arguments supported by evidence as to why these increases are unaffordable. The city’s financial position is exceptionally fragile and, as such, we embarked on an extensive cost-cutting exercise by reducing budgets by 30% across departments.”
He said it was shocking for the panellist to dismiss the city’s exemption application, especially after acknowledging the entity’s liquidity challenges.
Samwu national secretary Dumisane Magagula welcomed the bargaining council’s decision, labelling the city’s exemption application as “frivolous”.
He said the unions and the city concluded a three-year salary and wage collective agreement in 2021 at the bargaining council.
The agreement, he said, would have seen municipal workers receive a 3.5%, 4.9% and 5.4% salary and wage increases in 2021, 2022 and 2023 respectively.
Magagula said: “Instead of implementing the first leg of the agreement in 2021, the city of Tshwane applied to be exempted from the agreement and had their application dismissed.
The bargaining council’s ruling, he said, was a vindication to calls and arguments by the union that “the city does have the resources to pay workers their increases”.
On the other hand, the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu) said the ruling meant that the City of Tshwane Municipality must pay the 5.4% salary increase to its employees with effect from July 1, 2023.
Imatu said: “Despite being advised of the 5.4% increase on March 31, 2023, the City of Tshwane did not apply for exemption until August 10, 2023. The municipality simply ignored the salary and wage agreement on July 1 2023 and did not pay the salary increase when it became due, effectively exempting itself. This led to a compliance order being issued by the SALGBC on July 27, 2023, compelling it to pay the increase.”
Imatu regional chairperson Melita Baloyi appealed to the employer to implement the collective agreement in line with the exemption outcome and “do the right thing by paying employees their salary increases”.
“We have, in the past weeks, seen what the impasse between the employer and employees has caused not only to the employees, but also to the employer and to the general public with no provision of basic services,” she said.
Imatu said the arbitrator compared the city’s budgeted expenditure of R12 640 889 388 with its expenditure of R11 494 593 387 and found that it left a surplus of R1 146 296 001, which was sufficient to cover the wage increase of R602m.
Tshwane mayor Cilliers Brink said the bargaining council seemed to think that Tshwane has money to pay increases “which we simply don’t have”.
“Our budget is underfunded by at least R3bn,” he said.