Indefinite strike by Bay municipal workers looms

Hundreds of South African Municipal Workers Union members march from Grahamstown Road in Sydenham to the City Hall yesterday to hand over a memorandum of demands to the municipality
Picture: Fredlin Adriaan

Samwu gives City Hall seven days to address pay demands

The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality has seven days to review its new overtime policy or face an indefinite strike by South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) members.

The ultimatum was made by the Samwu regional leadership yesterday when hundreds of the union’s members marched to the Port Elizabeth City Hall from Sydenham.

Samwu spokesman Mqondisi Nodongwe urged the municipality to respond to the demands within seven days or face the strike.

“Should the DA-led administration and our employer fail to adhere to these demands Samwu would embark on an indefinite strike against what we believe is the violation of our rights as workers,” Nodongwe said.

In a memorandum, workers also demanded that the municipality:

  • Pay the long-service bonuses dating back to 2014 immediately;
  • Lift the suspensions of all municipal workers;
  • Disclose all fees paid to legal firms during disciplinary cases;
  • Stop using independent law firms and instead use municipal officials;
  • Stop putting trackers on municipal vehicles to monitor work done; and
  • Immediately absorb contract security workers.

The memorandum was received by human settlements political head Nqaba Bhanga, who said he would pass it on to mayor Athol Trollip who would respond.

“The workers should understand that the residents of Nelson Mandela Bay are the most important people. It is wrong for any municipal worker who gets paid by ratepayers to cut people’s water and electricity supply,” he said.

The municipality and its employees have been in a standoff since October 1.

Prior to that, qualifying employees could claim time and a half for each hour of overtime worked on Saturdays and double time for work on Sundays, according to a 2011 collective agreement.

The new overtime policy states that employees working over weekends and on public holidays will be compensated in monetary terms at normal working rates or get time off.

On July 7 last year, the municipality entered into an agreement with Samwu and the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu) that payment of long-service bonuses owed be implemented over a period of time.

The agreement also left room for negotiations but this collapsed when the municipality said it could not foot the bonus bill.

Budget and treasury committee chairman Retief Odendaal blamed the signing of the bonus agreement on poor planning.

This came after a report tabled in the committee last week estimated the municipality would need an additional R670-million to cover the long-service bonus bill over the next 10 years.

“The city [at the time] did not get an actuarial estimate as to what the repercussions of the agreement were going to be,” he said.

“The municipality is now bound by this agreement and it is now going to cost the city a staggering amount, close to R700-million, for the next couple of years.

“That is why it is so important that when you enter into an agreement you know what exactly the repercussions are,” Odendaal said.

Trollip’s chief of staff Kristoff Adelbert warned residents of possible power and water outages.

“Again [yesterday] we have seen a spike in power and water outages as certain labour unions urge workers to down tools. We ask all residents to prepare for further possible interruptions.”

Adelbert said a contingency plan had been put in place, with several contractors on standby.

“This coalition government cannot pay more than normal rates for overtime, otherwise the institution will have to cut costs in other ways at a later stage – possibly through retrenchments,” he said.

“[It] has had to make difficult decisions, in support of long-term financial sustainability and ongoing service delivery improvements.”

Leave a Reply