Invest in municipal workers to improve service delivery, says Samwu

In a statement on Wednesday, the union referred to Salga's 2.8% offer as an insult and a 'spit in the face' of municipal workers.


The South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) says under investment in workers is to blame for the nationwide service delivery crisis in the country.

The government’s wage austerity policy will have its first test run as wage negotiation season has kicked off in earnest in the public sector.

Following the union’s rejection of its offer, the South African Local Government Association (Salga) threw down the gauntlet and refused to back down from a 2.8% blanket wage hike cap, which has angered Samwu.

This raise will be 1.5% below projected inflation and comes with a total freeze of increases on all benefits linked to salary increases.

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Salga spokesperson Sivuyile Mbambatho says the association’s position remains firm until the “next round of negotiations”. But the union won’t budge in its demand for a R4,000 across the board raise.

Samwu deputy secretary-general Dumisane Magagula warns the perceived divestment from the working environment in municipalities will continue to cost the country as service delivery will only worsen as a result.

“What we have emphasised in the collective bargaining on the table is that we feel that municipalities are not collecting debt which they should collect. This debt should be able to fund the delivery of services.”

Debt owed to South Africa’s 257 municipalities in the 2018 financial year totalled R72.4 billion, according to the latest financial census of municipalities report. More than two-thirds of this debt has been attributed to consumers of municipal services.

Salga argued in a statement this week that some municipalities already can’t afford their current wage costs and are expected to apply for a zero percent increase in the 2021-22 Medium-Term Revenue and Expenditure Framework.

As of 31 December 2020, Magagula says 160 municipalities experienced some form of financial distress resulting in serious material breaches of financial commitments. Of these municipalities, 111 were experiencing severe financial distress, resulting in persistent material breach of financial commitments.

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According to Magagula, most municipal workers struggle with resource shortages as municipalities fail to maintain and replenish tools of trade. Outsourcing and the privatisation of municipal services has also done nothing to make services better and more cost effective for municipalities he adds.

“In the main we believe there is just no willingness to do the most basic things. Without tools of trade, without training municipal workers and paying them properly, it will be very difficult to have soldiers on the ground to fulfil their constitutional mandate.”

In a statement on Wednesday, the union referred to Salga’s offer as an insult and a “spit in the face” of municipal workers.

Mbambatho says considering that municipalities have been among the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, these negotiations represent a critical point in efforts to save them from complete financial collapse.

The association is also proposing a three-year salary and wage collective agreement, as opposed to Samwu’s demand for a one-year agreement. This, says Mbambatho, is in order to continue to maintain stability in the local government sector.