Municipal workers could go on strike Friday

2011-05-09 14:50

Some 220 000 municipal workers will strike on Friday unless ongoing talks with the ANC can resolve their issues, SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) spokesperson Tahir Sema has said.

“The union is currently in closed-door meetings with the top brass of the ANC and discussing ways in which strike action can be averted,” he told Sapa.

Municipal workers, excluding essential services, plan a nationwide strike on Friday, five days before local government elections.

“The main concern is that local government has failed us?.?.?. We have mentioned time and time again, local government is not working for our people. Something drastic needs to be done to turn it around.”

He said the strategy proposed by Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Sicelo Shiceka, who has been on sick leave since February, was “hollow” and had “nothing substantial to improve delivery of services”. Samwu is calling for President Jacob Zuma to sack Shiceka as “he is not serving the country”.

The union was also demanding that Zuma not sign into law the Municipal Amendment Bill. The bill is intended to “depoliticise” municipalities and ensure they appoint skilled people.

Sema said the meeting with the ANC started on Friday at Luthuli House in Johannesburg, with Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe present.

Late on Monday talks were still continuing. “We will give this process time first,” Sema said. Depending on the outcome of discussions the strike could be called off.

Sema said although wage negotiations deadlocked on Friday, this had not led to this week’s planned strike.

“This is not due simply because of a deadlock in wage negotiations, but because we have a number of demands relating to local government which we stipulated a few weeks back.”

Samwu wanted the scrapping of provincial government, and to have its funds diverted to local government to improve service delivery.

It also wanted the government to address its concern about the alleged victimisation of members who blew the whistle on corruption.

Sema said the union had initially demanded an 18% salary increase, but this would be “negotiated down”. “It has been misconstrued in the media that we are demanding 18% ... but this is how negotiations work. We put a high figure on the table and negotiate down.”

As wage negotiations deadlocked on Friday, the wage demand had now been added to the union’s list of grievances it was discussing with the ANC.

“We will be encouraging the ANC to initiate political intervention to break the deadlock.”

The salary increases were due to be implemented in July.

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