South African Municipal Workers demand CBA be respected

PSI Africa & Arab countries stands in solidarity with members of affiliate, the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) in the Tshwane Municipality. Protests were triggered by the city administrators’ decision to renege on a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) signed between the city and the union.

We would like to express our solidarity with members of our affiliate SAMWU in the Tshwane Municipality who are waging a protest action against the City of Tshwane. The protests were triggered by the city’s administrators’ decision to renege on a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that was arrived at between the city and the South African Municipal Workers’ Union, (SAMWU.) Instead of complying with the CBA, the administrators are now presenting a financial situation that is said to be incapable of meeting the budgetary requirements to pay the agreed salary scales and the arrears.

In 2017, the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs moved the city’s ranking from Grade 9 to 10. The city administrators were supposed to adjust the employees’ salary scales accordingly, that is, from Grade 9 to 10. An investigation was then instituted in order to make a comparison between the pay scales for workers in the City of Tshwane and those in other municipalities of the same grade. The result of the investigation was the benchmarking of the metro workers’ salaries so that they would be at par with other metros in the same grade.

A collective bargaining agreement was then signed between SAMWU and the City of Tshwane in which the administrators committed to the payment of the benchmarked pay scales. It is this collective bargaining agreement that the administrators now want to go back on.

As a matter of principle, it is dishonorable and acting in bad faith to go back on your word on things you have formally committed to doing. In labour relations, this undermines the whole process of collective bargaining, a mechanism that is at the core of maintaining good relations. It is simple psychology that raising expectations and then not fulfilling them leads to frustration. It is therefore inevitable that a conflict should arise where workers feel they have been taken for a ride. The workers are therefore absolutely right in demanding the back pay that they were promised and that has accrued after salaries had been benchmarked.

In addition, the Tshwane metro should take full responsibility for the service delivery disruptions that have resulted from the protest action. It is disingenuous for the administrators to try and shift the chaos that erupted last week to the disgruntled workers. They want to cast the workers as violent hooligans upon whom the armed police should be set. And yet all they are doing is demanding the implementation of a signed agreement.

Secondly, we would also like to condemn the police brutality that was on show when members of the police force were unleashed on the protesters. The firing of rubber bullets and use of force against workers is unacceptable in a labor dispute for fair wages. It is unfortunate that fellow workers should be turned on their fellow workers and comrades for demanding what is rightly theirs. The real culprits are those in power who refuse to pay workers their due.

We therefore stand in solidarity with our Comrades in SAMWU as they demand the lump sum back pay as well as the reinstatement of the 50 workers who were unfairly dismissed.