KZN municipality denied application for wage increase exemption

19 November 2021 - 13:52
By Ernest Mabuza
The Uthukela district municipality in KZN wanted exemption from clauses giving employees a salary increase and one-off payments. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/ANDRIY POPOV The Uthukela district municipality in KZN wanted exemption from clauses giving employees a salary increase and one-off payments. Stock photo.

The SA Local Government Bargaining Council (SALGBC) has dismissed another local government salary and wage exemption application, this time from the Uthukela district municipality in KwaZulu-Natal.

In an outcome passed on Wednesday, the bargaining council dismissed the municipality’s application on the basis that it was frivolous.

The bargaining council also ordered the municipality to pay the costs of the SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) and the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu), which opposed the application.

The decision by the council follows the dismissal on Monday of an application by the City of Cape Town to be exempted from implementing the recent local government salary wage agreement concluded on September 15.

The district municipality, like the City of Cape Town, wanted exemption from the clauses which gave employees a 3.5% salary increase with effect from July 1, and one-off payments of R4,000 for workers earning R12,500 or less, and R3,000 for employees earning R12,501 or more.

In opposing the application, Imatu said Uthukela had a funded budget for the 2021/22 financial year and was projecting an operating surplus of R10.1m. Imatu further submitted that the municipality had a budget for a 5.6% salary increase.

The council said from documents submitted before it, the 3.5% increase bargained for in respect of the 2021/22 financial year is affordable, thus undermining the contention that the increase is unaffordable.

Samwu welcomed the decision.

“Of great importance is that the senior panellist [at the bargaining council] ruled that the application by the municipality was frivolous and awarded a cost order against the municipality and further directed the municipality to pay workers their salary and wage increases as per the signed collective agreement backdated to July 2021,” said Samwu general secretary Dumisane Magagula.

He said the union hoped the cost order would deter other municipalities from bringing frivolous applications to the bargaining council.

“We believe this has been fruitless and wasteful expenditure by the municipality and this money should be recouped directly from the chief accounting officer of the municipality who brought this frivolous application.” 

He said frivolous applications prejudiced workers who had gone for five months without salary increases.

Magagula said more worryingly, workers’ money was being used by unions to defend these applications, while municipalities were using public money in their crusade to reverse the gains of workers.

Magagula said the union had approached the bargaining council to seek compliance orders against municipalities which had not implemented the salary and wage collective agreement without applying for exemption.