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By Moneyweb

Moneyweb: Journalists

Payday came, but not for all Tshwane employees

Hundreds given letters challenging them to explain why they should be paid.

Employees of the embattled Tshwane metro are used to getting paid on the 25th of every month, but some were left empty-handed this week.

This after more than 400 staff members received letters challenging them to show why they are entitled to their salaries despite reports that they failed to execute their duties.

It is not clear how many responded successfully. For some it would be the second month without pay as their salaries were also withheld in August.

ALSO READ: Here’s how much City of Tshwane’s striking workers get paid

Moneyweb previously reported that salaries in Tshwane are well above those paid in the private sector. Going without pay will hurt those who have adjusted their lifestyle to their income.

The Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu) went to court last week to challenge the withholding of the August salaries and the dismissal of some of its members for participating in the unprotected strike that has been ongoing since July.

The unprotected strike follows the refusal of the employer, led by a coalition of the DA, ActionSA, VF+, IFP and the ACDP, to pay the 5.4% salary increase agreed at the local government bargaining council. It is the last year of a three-year wage agreement.

Strike violence

Services have been seriously impacted by the strike and associated violence aimed at intimidating those employees who do want to work. Rubbish has been piling up throughout the city as contractors have seen their trucks burnt and staff threatened.

Interruptions in the supply of water and electricity are the order of the day as response times suffers.

Mayor Cilliers Brink from the DA insists there is no money in Tshwane’s empty pockets for the increase, which would cost an additional R600 million.

Tshwane is currently unable to pay its bulk suppliers Eskom and Rand Water fully and on time, and it approved an unfunded budget with the knowledge of the National Treasury.

The budget was accompanied by a financial recovery plan, which does not allow a salary increase.

Tshwane applied for exemption from the agreement for this year’s increase, but the application was dismissed by the bargaining council. The metro is taking the decision on review.

ALSO READ: City of Tshwane fires ‘ring leaders’ behind unprotected and unlawful strike

Brink has taken a hard stance and refuses to negotiate with the unions.

He characterises the events as criminality, rather than labour action.

His own coalition partners are however increasingly questioning his position.

This raises the question, who will budge first – the striking workers who are left out of pocket or the mayor who may be losing support from nervous coalition partners and fed-up residents?

Last week ActionSA said it would lodge a dispute within the coalition if necessary – it wants the mayor to seek a compromise with the unions.

But Brink’s supporters point out that municipal unions Samwu and Imatu deny their participation in the strike, and say there is no point in negotiating with them if they have no part in it.

A meeting of the coalition partners at local level “did not find agreement” according to ActionSA.

A decision was taken to refer the matter to the national coalition oversight group, which consists of all the party leaders.

A date has not yet been set for them to discuss it, ActionSA national chair Michael Beaumont told Moneyweb. The party said in a statement on Tuesday it had met with Samwu to help end the strike.

“As a committed partner of the multi-party government, ActionSA agrees that the City’s finances should be stabilised following years of instability and we continue to stand against any form of vandalism of public property,” it said.

However, it says it must be balanced “by the legitimate request of municipal unions who qualify for salary increases – as recently confirmed by the South African Local Government Bargaining Council and the consequent need for stability of service delivery in Tshwane.”

ActionSA says there are no winners in the strike “as relations between the unions and the city deteriorate, and ultimately, the residents of Tshwane are the biggest losers due to no refuse removal and other basic services.”

ALSO READ: City of Tshwane fires over 90 employees involved in strike

Compromise call

“It is not good enough for Brink and the DA to force residents to live without refuse removal or other basic services in order to avoid the rational need to sit down and engage the unions in order to achieve the compromise that gets service delivery back again,” says ActionSA.

“It is also not acceptable for the City to ignore the soaring cost of living increases that municipal workers, like all other South Africans, experience.”

It adds” “As with all complex challenges in local government, consensus must be built through engagement and compromise to the benefit of all residents something that cannot happen as long as there is a refusal to even engage.”

ALSO READ: Fixing Tshwane’s finances means no salary increases for workers, councillors

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