PMB wage battle looms

2010-06-30 00:00

WHILE most workers look forward to getting annual increases every year, employees of the Msunduzi Municipality will have to make do with their current salaries when the new financial year begins tomorrow. The news has been met with anger by workers, who say they will down tools if they don’t get their increase.

The Witness is in possession of a two-page internal memorandum signed by Msunduzi administrator Johann Mettler, which was sent to all staff and is dated June 15.

In it, Mettler says the municipality will not be able to meet the following terms of an agreement signed last year that was meant to be put in place from July 1:

• an increase of 8,48% across the board;

• a 2,5% non-pensionable allowance to be incorporated into the basic salary;

• a housing subsidy based on a maximum bond of R110 000; and

• the filling of vacant essential and critical posts on or before July 1.

“However, as we all know, the municipality is presently in a financial crisis as a result of which the municipality is unable to afford the payment of the above in this point in time,” states Mettler in the document.

He adds that they do intend to implement the agreement, but “the only issue relates to the timing of the implementation as the municipality cannot comply on or before July 1, 2010”.

He ends by saying they will consult the unions before announcing the date for the implementation of the agreement.

The Witness has learnt that Mettler has made a written application to SA Local Government Association (Salga) asking it to allow the municipality to postpone the implementation of the agreement.

The Witness also has a letter written to Mettler by the SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) local secretary, Themba Lyons.

Dated June 22, the letter states that while “the office bearers gave their support in principle regarding your application”, they have changed their minds and decided to withdraw their support.

A letter written by Lyons to all union members on June 23 states that Samwu “wants to distance itself from the rumours and deliberate malicious mouth-mongering that the Samwu supported the application for an exemption by the municipality on the salary and wage agreement”.

It goes on to say that Samwu supported the application only in principle “pending the mandate from the shop-stewards and the entire membership”, which eventually “decided against any kind of support”.

But it seems that not all is well between the unions and its members.

Last week, The Witness quoted Msunduzi Mayor Mike Tarr as saying that relations between union members and union representatives are frosty, and this could lead to problems.

Some workers who spoke to The Witness, of not consulting them before meeting Mettler.

They said there was a series of meetings last week in which the workers made it clear that they oppose Mettler’s application and expect the unions to support their mandate.

When asked what would happen if Mettler’s application succeeds, the most common responses from workers were: “No one will work”, and “We will get it”.

Lyons told The Witness, “We understand that workers are frustrated, but we are also frustrated.”

He said he met the union’s provincial secretary in Durban on Monday and again yesterday, and they will oppose Msunduzi’s application at the national bargaining council. Members will be informed shortly, he said.

Attempts to get comment from the municipality and Salga were not successful by the time of going to print.

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