Municipal workers march to Tshwane House demanding outstanding payments yesterday. They later stormed the municipal headquarters before the police sent them packing. Thobile MathonsiAfrican News Agency (ANA)
Municipal workers march to Tshwane House demanding outstanding payments yesterday. They later stormed the municipal headquarters before the police sent them packing. Thobile MathonsiAfrican News Agency (ANA)

Tshwane workers run amok in Pretoria CBD

By Rapula Moatshe Time of article published Jul 22, 2020

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Pretoria - Tshwane does not have the money for “benchmarking payments” to its workers who ran amok at its headquarters and surrounding streets yesterday, demanding the money.

Head administrator Mpho Nawa said the City would not be able to afford payouts due to its declining revenue, compounded by the negative effects of Covid-19.

He said the actual average revenue collection for April to June was 68%, which equalled a loss of income for the three months of more than R2.8billion.

Nawa said the City would honour 6.25% wage increment, but it was “not in a position to even begin engaging with labour on this matter”.

He urged union leaders to come back to the boardroom with a view to resolve outstanding issues with administrators.

He said that during a recent meeting at the local labour forum with the unions, the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) leadership walked out, leading to the collapse of the talks. “Our projections indicate that if nothing changes, the City is likely to have a shortfall of R5bn by the end of the 2020/21 financial year, thus running the risk of not being able to honour its financial obligations, including salaries,” Nawa said.

Chaos broke out at Tshwane House yesterday as the angry workers stormed the municipal headquarters after they deadlocked with the employer over their outstanding “benchmarking” payments.

Police fired rubber bullets to disperse the Samwu-affiliated demonstrators who had destroyed the main gate to forcefully gain entry to the building.

Some striking workers ran helter-skelter as they tried to dodge rubber bullets.

They eventually regrouped and chanted Struggle songs in front of the municipal building. Earlier on, some workers parked municipal vehicles and waste removal trucks on the corner of Madiba and Lillian Ngoyi streets to block traffic.

Others burnt municipal wheelie bins and emptied rubbish in the middle of the road.

They had congregated at Tshwane House after their union leaders called them to come and “check whether their increase and benchmarking monies have been paid”.

The benchmarking payouts were expected to be in line with a collective agreement reached by the parties last year. The agreement was reached by a benchmarking team which measured the workers’ salary scales in Tshwane against those of workers in counterpart metros.

The investigation was undertaken with a view to putting employees on a par with workers in category 10 municipalities after Tshwane was moved from category 9 status by the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs in 2017.

While the metro’s grading was moved from level 9 to 10, the employees’ salary scales were never adjusted accordingly.

The union’s regional chairperson, Nkhetheni Muthavhi said the workers would not back down on their demand, saying it was better for them to die of the coronavirus than poverty.

Muthavhi said workers took to the street after a team of administrators led by Nawa claimed they could not afford the payouts.

“The only money that we need is R756million to cover our payments. Two weeks ago, they said they had R300m to pay for benchmarking. On Monday, they did not have millions; they no longer had anything.

“One wonders whether they want to steal from the poor workers. They seem to have an over-excessive appetite for stealing,” he said.

He added that the employer had, however, agreed to implement the wage increase of 6.25%.

Early this year, workers were paid part of the benchmarking payments, and the rest was scheduled to be settled on July26.

“What we are fighting for is that they must implement phase two of benchmarking. That is where we are. They seem to be claiming that they don’t have money.

“These people are getting R90000 each on top of their salaries. They will die of over-eating when workers are dying of hunger,” Muthavhi said.

In a subsequent statement, Samwu said it was angered by the attitude of the City’s administrators, who had taken a stance to disregard collective agreements signed between the employer and labour.

It said failure to honour all collective agreements in the City would be a declaration of war that municipal workers were ready to fight in defending collective bargaining and their gains.

“The City should not test us; the ground is fertile and if it is war that the administrators want, municipal workers will respond appropriately,” the union said.

Nawa condemned “the appalling behaviour” of the protesting workers as well as the damaging of City property, including trashing the CBD’s streets with litter. “This behaviour borders on criminality. We hope that the police will do their job and bring to book the responsible culprits,” Nawa said.

DA mayoral candidate Randall Williams expressed concern that “the illegal protest” had led to the destruction of public property.

“This is as a result of the ANC’s illegally imposed administrators backtracking on salary increases as part of the benchmarking agreement signed between the municipality and the City’s major unions,” he said.

The union said the protest would be continuing today.

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