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City of Cape Town has declared war against workers: Samwu

Samwu Regional Secretary Mikel Khumalo says the City has declared war against workers

Samwu Regional Secretary Mikel Khumalo says the City has declared war against workers

Published Sep 28, 2021

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Cape Town - The South African Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu) Cape Metro Region said the City of Cape Town had declared war against workers following its announcement that the municipality will seek exemption from municipal wage increases.

The City said it did not support salary increases for government employees during what it called trying time for many residents, businesses and citizens.

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The City’s Mayoral Committee (Mayco) has, therefore, mandated the City to approach the South African Local Government Bargaining Council (SALGBC) for an exemption from the new salary and wage collective agreement for local government.

“Our decision to oppose the wage agreement by asking to be excluded from having to implement the increases has not been taken lightly,” said the City’s Executive Deputy Mayor, Ian Neilson.

“City staff and residents have been front of mind, but we strongly believe this is not the right time in South Africa to afford increases to government employees. It is not fair to our residents, many of whom are struggling due to Covid-19 and the national lockdown.”

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He added that the state of the national economy was dire.

“Resources have been all but depleted over the years. We have already seen large national government budget cuts on important service delivery imperatives such as on human settlements, which is having a ripple effect on local governments. We maintain wage increases at this time are unfair and unaffordable.”

The Collective Agreement contains a 3,5% increase for all municipal employees with effect from 1 July 2021, valid for three years until 2023.

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Samwu Regional Secretary Mikel Khumalo said they are disgusted with the latest move by the municipality on the recently signed multi-year wage increase agreement.

“This comes not only as a shock to us but is clearly a declaration of war against Cape Town municipal workers and the working class, who are suffering under escalating high prices, increased municipal rates, rent and exorbitant water charges.”

“Wanting to abscond from implementing a nationally agreed wage increase makes a mockery of the wage negotiation process and would render the whole bargaining process obsolete if parties can just afterwards request to be exempted.”

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Khumalo added that the City was trying to plead poverty when it comes to paying its workers proper decent salaries, especially those on the lower rungs, but are not shy to pay extremely high salaries to those in executive positions, contracting expensive lawyers, consultants, contractors and labour brokers.

“We call on the SALGBC not to heed the request of the City of Cape Town for an exemption and to make them aware that they can afford to pay the increase. As Samwu Cape Metro Region, we will not take this lying down and will fight to the bitter end to defend the rights of our members for a living wage and for the implementation of wage increases agreed to at the SALGBC.”

Sandra Dickson from lobby group STOP CoCT said the City is making use of a clause in the agreement with the Bargaining Council to apply for an exemption.

"CoCT is now holding the public's inability to pay these increases as an excuse for a one-sided decision taken by Mayco. Though the public's inability to pay fell on deaf ears when that same Mayco approved the tariff and Fixed Charge increases in CoCT's 2021 budget.

“COCT is stumbling from one extremely unpopular decision to the next. This time it is an all or nothing approach to their employees. This comes after a serious backlash from the public over tariff increases. No negotiation in either situation, just one harsh one-sided decision by Mayco. Similar to all the other one-sided decisions made by the CoCT Mayco, time will tell how wise this decision around almost 30 000 of its employees is."

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