Pretoria - The SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) in Gauteng has accused the City of Tshwane of squandering money on lawyers after it allegedly paid R3 million in legal fees in a bid to stop the striking workers demanding wage increases.
Provincial union secretary Mpho Tladinyane said “the outrageous amount of money the City kept flushing down the drain” was disturbing.
The City, he said, took the union to the Labour Court on two occasions alleging that the union was in contempt of the rule issued by the same court within a space of eight days.
“On both occasions, the City was humiliated with their applications being dismissed. Although as a union, we should be rejoicing over the two victories in court, we are concerned that the City has spent over R3m in legal fees. This is money that could have been used to service residents of Tshwane,” he said.
The legal fees paid by the City, he said, has proven that the institution has full pockets despite having “pleaded poverty in the midst of workers’ demands for the full implementation of the salary and wage collective agreement”.
“It is unfortunate that the only people who are benefiting from this extravagant expenditure are Lawtons Attorneys who are continuing to milk the City while workers are subjected to hunger and starvation as they cannot catch up with the rising cost of living,” Tladinyane said.
He lashed out at the City for citing its debt to Eskom as one of the reasons for not being able afford to pay workers’ salary increases. According to him, the city failed to take advantage of the R59 billion Eskom relief grant made available to municipalities by the Minister of Finance in February.
“Knowing very well its financial muscle, the City of Tshwane opted not to apply for the Eskom relief grant. The City chose not to apply for this grant because it knew it has enough money to service the Eskom debt.
“These are some of the reasons which have made it obvious to municipal workers in the City of Tshwane that their employer is able and capable of paying the 3.5% and 5.4% salary and wage increases,” Tladinyane said.
Tshwane spokesperson Selby Bokaba said the City’s urgent application to the Labour Court for contempt was dismissed on Tuesday on the grounds that the matter was not urgent, and not on the merits. The ruling, he said, has no bearing on the interim interdict granted to the City on July 28.
“The interdict remains intact. The court declared the strike unlawful and unprotected and barred employees from intimidating their fellow colleagues and directed them to refrain from damaging the City’s property and any private or public property,” he said.
Meanwhile, the City has to date dismissed a total of 100 employees participating in the unlawful strike or for intimidating their colleagues.
Six of the seven employees dismissed this week were identified as ringleaders behind the unlawful three-week strike.
The six, Bokaba said, were shop stewards at a municipal inner-city Middestad building, while the seventh worked in region four.
They accused the shop stewards, of trashing the corridors of the building with litter on receipt of letters of intention for their dismissal.
“More letters of intention to dismiss are being processed,” Bokaba said, adding that efforts were being intensified to identify others behind the intimidation.
He said they had desperately resorted to wearing balaclavas, hats, caps and shades to disguise their identity.
On Tuesday, five employees in region six drove to the Waltloo electricity depot and intimidated on-duty workers.
“Four of the five employees were successfully identified and confirmed to be members of trade union Samwu.
“The City has resolved to arrest the intimidators and has encouraged employees who have been intimidated to consider laying criminal charges against their intimidators,” Bokaba said.