Samwu’s violent salary protest under spotlight during Tshwane council sitting

Municipal workers affiliated to Samwu protest outside Tshwane House. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

Municipal workers affiliated to Samwu protest outside Tshwane House. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jul 28, 2023


Pretoria - The demands by the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) for salary increases took the spotlight during a council meeting in Tshwane House, with the ANC insisting that mayor Cilliers Brink go out to address workers who had reconvened outside.

Brink, however, refused by saying that addressing workers “would undermine the position of the city manager in managing the employer-employee relationship”.

Workers demonstrated again in spite of a violent march on Wednesday which erupted in a clash with the police. Marchers hurled beer bottles and cans at the police, who used stun grenades to disperse them.

Gauteng Samwu secretary Mpho Tladinyane said yesterday that at least 11 members were arrested on Wednesday.

Four workers, who were apprehended during a violent protest in Centurion on Monday, appeared at the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court yesterday, and were released on bail.

Inside a council chamber, ANC chief whip Aaron Maluleke accused DA councillors Jacqui Uys and Themba Fosi of having made inflammatory statements in the media, that the ANC voted on the 0% wage increase for workers.

He said the conduct by the two had potentially set up ANC councillors against workers “who insult us and attack us as their ally”.

“It shouldn't work that way because when we were negotiating the budget we negotiated in good faith and supported the need to stabilise finances and rebuild this city. Unfortunately, people want to take political advantage of the situation. But it is not going to backfire on us only; it is going to backfire on them as the executive.”

ANC councillor Seabelo Marishane urged the council to prioritise addressing workers outside before it could continue with its business for the day.

“The workers of this city who are the implementers of the decisions that we take have brought their plight to us as the leaders in this city. I would like to lobby the leadership of this council to stop this meeting and reflect on this matter,” he said.

In a media statement, ANC caucus spokesperson Joel Masilela expressed concern that the coalition partners and the DA “aren't sympathetic to the plight of workers in the city”. He said workers recently engaged in a “protected strike” due to the city’s executive deciding not to effect the 2023/24 increase in salaries of 5.4% for workers.

Masilela said: “The city’s employees were promised an increase of 3.5% in 2021, and haven't been honoured by the city to this very day, followed by a 4.6% allocation for the period of 2022/23.”

Brink said his administration was on a financial rescue mission and had a funding plan that included applying for an exemption from the collective bargaining agreement on salary increments.

“This is an exceptionally difficult position because we depend on the morale and productivity of our workforce to deliver services. Workers are also part of our broader communities. They also suffer from the burden of the rising cost of living,” he said.

He reiterated that he could not address the workers’ march on Wednesday because “there were different groupings within the union that started attacking each other and denying each other the platform”.

“We said we are happy to meet with the leadership of Samwu because we would not like to play into the factionalism of the trade union,” he said.

Workers were angry with their regional union leaders, accusing them of corruption after an audio recording implicated former union leaders of working with the municipality to weaken Samwu activities in Tshwane.

In response to demands to address striking workers yesterday, Brink said: “If I were to go out and accept a memorandum from an unpermitted gathering of workers who do not have leave from work, I would undermine the position of the city manager in managing the employer-employee relationship.”

Pretoria News