Union says labour and local government still some distance apart in wage talks

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SAMWU accuses the City of Cape Town of lacking commitment in dealing with firefighters' concerns.
SAMWU accuses the City of Cape Town of lacking commitment in dealing with firefighters' concerns.
Misheck Makora
  • The South African Local Government Association said it was making progress in its wage negotiations with labour at local government.
  • The South African Municipal Workers' Union said it still needed to report back to membership nationwide.
  • Samwu is demanding a R4 000 wage increase across the board, while Salga is offering a 2.8% wage increase for the 2021/22 financial year.

Despite a statement by the South African Local Government Association (Salga) saying that local government is making progress in wage negotiations with organised labour, the South African Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu) maintained that the two parties are still some distance apart.

The negotiations are taking place under the auspices of the South African Local Government Bargaining Council, where labour and Salga met on Wednesday and Thursday and agreed to hold a third round of negotiations on 3 and 4 June.

Samwu, an affiliate of the ANC-aligned Cosatu, is demanding a R4 000 wage increase across the board. Salga is offering a 2.8% wage increase for the 2021/22 financial year.

Government is on a mission to reduce spending, in line with warnings from Finance Minister Tito Mboweni on spending and debt. The public service wage talks at the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council have already taken an adversarial tone themselves with court cases and disputes on previous deals.

Salga said in a statement released on Wednesday that talks between labour and the employer ended with "parties agreeing to hold an additional third round of negotiations to build on the progress made".

"At the second round of negotiations, the parties acknowledged that the negotiations take place in the backdrop of an economic downturn. 

"To this end, there is a realisation that the net effect that this has on municipal finances, including the highly reduced ability of municipalities to collect and generate revenue due to economic impact on businesses and households," the Salga statement said.

Salga said it remained "optimistic" of progress at the negotiations, that parties have affirmed their commitment to work towards finding common ground and would ultimately reach an agreement being reached.

"This augurs well for the prospects of labour peace and stability in the sector as well as in ensuring the continuation of service delivery without any interruptions. The current salary and wage collective agreement expires on 30 June 2021," the statement said.

Samwu said in its own statement that it would canvas its membership nationwide about the offer in preparation for a return to the fourth round of negotiations. The union took issue with the statement Salga released.

"Samwu further takes this opportunity to scold Salga following a statement they released on 12 May wherein they seek to create an impression that parties in the bargaining council are warming up to each other and that an agreement will be reached soon.

"Salga further creates the impression that as a result of municipal revenue collection declining, labour is intent on compromising the interests of workers. From the onset, Samwu has always maintained that workers cannot be blamed for fraud, corruption, maladministration and inefficiencies in municipalities which included under and non-collection of revenue," the Samwu statement read.

The Samwu statement said its national secretariat would send a report to structures of the union on the outcomes of the third round of negotiations.

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