The Amathole District Municipality indicated on Sunday that it will not be able to pay employees for the months of February, April, May and June due to the municipality’s high salary bill which is over budget.
Amathole municipal manager, Thandekile Mnyimba, said that the municipality would be unable to pay salaries of workers, councillors and traditional leaders for the next four months, with the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) calling for the Eastern Cape municipality to be placed under administration.
“Things are out of hand in the municipality and as Samwu we will engage Cogta [department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs] to ensure that things do not continue this way,” Nelson Mokgotho, president of the union told City Press.
“The position of Samwu is that the municipality should be put under administration so that the provincial department takes care of the situation.”
The union feels the municipality is inefficiently run by management and that the financial situation is now dire.
The municipality’s spokesperson Nonceba Madikizela-Vuso, on Monday, said that the municipality was technically bankrupt and that the root causes of its financial standing, among other issues, is the high salary bill as a result of benefits and the “unlawful” re-categorisation of the municipality from a category 6 to category 7.
“With the limited revenue generating resource base, if the cost of employee’s is not curbed, the municipality will certainly not recover from its liquidity challenges,” she said.
“The total salaries for 2020/2021 is R789 537 869 per annum and R65 794 822 per month.”
She also indicated that this was over-budget and that the strain affects all other expenses the municipality has.
Threat of a stay-away
Mokgotho emphasised that workers would not report for work while fully aware that they would not be receiving their monthly remuneration for the months ahead.
“The provincial department should take the lead and ensure that employees are paid otherwise communities are not going to get services.”
“If employees are not paid it automatically tells you that they will not be going to work, because if you are not going to receive a salary why would you wake up every morning and go to work,” he asked rhetorically.
“Many employees use public transport. How will they afford the cost of that transport that gets them to work if they are not receiving a salary?”
“Even those using their own cars. They need money for fuel and other necessities and essentials.”
“The municipal manager has indicated that workers will be back paid once money is available. That means they are expected to report for duty. Should they not, then they cannot be paid for days not worked,” Madikizela-Vuso said, adding that “all employees would not be paid, including the municipal manager and councillors” and others who hold senior positions.
To this, Mokgotho responded: “You can’t suspend hunger. There is nowhere and no way that workers can be told to work for free and they will be paid at a later stage or after six months. That has never happened.”
“If you go to that municipality, you will find that there are service providers that are being paid. These workers will be waking up on a daily basis to go to work. Who will feed them for those months that they will not be paid, while they are reporting for work?”
“If the municipality is saying workers should report for duty and will only be paid after six months, what we are saying is that, let us close office and return after six months when we can be paid. It will never happen that workers will go to work for months without being paid.”
“If they are not going to be paid, they are not going to work. That is the position of the union.”
According to Madikizela-Vuso, the municipality is in urgent need of government financial assistance tot he tune of R65 794 822.
“The request to the provincial government is for the number of months we are unable to pay salaries,” she said.
“Further to the request is an amount of R150 million targeted at what the municipality terms “Mutual Separation Package” - where an employee will be afforded an opportunity to apply to part ways with the municipality. This is targeting 33% of employees at middle management where the cost of employment is too high.”
Mokgotho said: “If they can’t run the municipality, they should admit it.”
He suggested that the senior managers take pay cuts because “workers who earn peanuts in the municipality suffer even more”.
“We cannot accept this [non-payment] stance.”