‘No increases this month’

2010-07-02 00:00

WHETHER they like it or not, Msunduzi employees will have to accept that council will not be able pay them their annual increases this month.

On Wednesday, The Witness reported that workers were not happy that the municipality had made an application to postpone their yearly wage increases.

At yesterday’s sitting of the executive committee (Exco), Msunduzi administrator Johann Mettler said the intervention team appeared before the South African Local Government Bargaining Council (SALGBC) on Tuesday to argue for the exemption of the salary and wage agreement.

“The municipality is in a position where it has no choice but to ask for the postponement,” said Mettler. “It’s not pleasant to tell you this and it will become worse by the end of this month, I anticipate.”

Mettler said the municipality’s finances are still fragile.

Its debts are increasing and collection levels still hover at around 55%.

He said he has received a lot of phone calls from irate small business operators who are still waiting to be paid.

He said now is the time to come down hard on defaulters, including government departments, if things are to improve.

He said they are in the process of holding negotiations with Eskom because the R80 million they had been charged for June is likely to escalate next month, which means that “we are staring down the barrel of a shot gun”.

Said DA caucus leader Bill Lambert: “This really is too ghastly to contemplate. Even the weather has turned on us. It’s really quite horrendous [and] … the unions have to come to the table with us.”

Mettler said he realises that the unions are in a difficult position.

Although they understand the municipality’s bleak financial status, they cannot agree to the postponement because they do not want to appear as sell-outs to union members.

Nevertheless, Mettler said he believes that the matter can be sorted out.

Despite meeting with the unions last week, there had been a lot of miscommunication which he hoped to sort out at a meeting scheduled for later yesterday.

“I think the unions will be receptive to the idea that we have no choice,” said Mettler, who said they will negotiate with them as to when they would be able to pay workers their annual increases.

Chief operating officer for the South African Local Government Association (Salga) Lance Joel said all agreements entered into at Salga’s bargaining council do have provisions that allow parties to apply for such exemptions.

He said Msunduzi’s application is not a unique case as other municipalities that have been put under administration have been given such exemptions before.

“An application for exemption is supposed to be done by June 15, if this doesn’t happen, municipalities must apply for condonation for late application,” he said.

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