Samwu workers in Tshwane 'ready for war' as salary dispute heats up

21 July 2020 - 18:43
By Nonkululeko Njilo
Samwu members are fuming after the Tshwane municipality allegedly reneged on salary increases.
Image: THE HERALD/MIKE HOLMES Samwu members are fuming after the Tshwane municipality allegedly reneged on salary increases.

Members of the South African Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu) in Tshwane are preparing for “war” after administrators of the city allegedly backtracked on salary increases.

Angry workers on Tuesday and damaged the Tshwane municipality head office during protest action. They also emptied bins and trashed the CBD with litter over the disputes, according to the municipality.

The city's head administrator Mpho Nawa condemned the incident.

"The right to strike is entrenched in the constitution, but no one has the right to damage the property of the municipality and trash the streets with litter. This behaviour borders on criminality. We hope that the police will do their job and bring to book the responsible culprits," he said.

The demonstration took place after a special Local Labour Forum (LLF) meeting was held between the administrators and the representatives of both Samwu and the Independent Municipal & Allied Trade Union (Imatu).

Nawa said the purpose of the meeting was to conclude the implementation of the 6.25% annual wage increase and implementation of the benchmarking collective agreement.

“It is unfortunate to note that this meeting could not conclude on these matters due to the fact that Samwu leadership walked out of the meeting and as such the meeting collapsed as there was no quorum,” he said.

Samwu regional secretary Mpho Tladinyane confirmed that members had been up in arms after the city failed to fulfil promises made as far back as 2018.

“Last week we had a meeting with them to find out how far they were with regards implementation, and they have come out with new stories that they don’t have money, but we know that is not true. We are also aware that the city has budgeted, approved and has in excess of R1.3bn that would be enough to pay workers what is due to them,” he told TimesLIVE. 

Tladinyane said the union was of the opinion that municipal workers who ensure that service delivery is realised had been sidelined.

“Workers have been given two options: either die of poverty or coronavirus. We have chosen none of the two and as such we will fight with our masks on to ensure that we get what is due to us,” he said.

Failure to honour all collective agreements in the city will be a declaration of war, the union warned.

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

The Democratic Alliance (DA)’s mayoral candidate Randall Williams condemned the criminality and also slammed the city for failing to reach an amicable solution. 

“The protest has led to the destruction of public property in and around Tshwane House. It is alarming to see the violent destruction of city property that has taken place due to the manner in which the ANC administrators simply ignored the workers of the city,” he said.

“The DA believes that the administrators should have found a way to get all parties around a table to ensure proper negotiation takes place on this matter before dismissing the concerns raised by the unions.”  

Williams added that criminality must never be allowed and the protesting workers must face criminal charges.  

The union has since given administrators until Wednesday to confirm that all collective agreements will be implemented.

“We will continue protesting until our demands are met and we are paid what is due to us,” added Tladinyane.