‘We’ve been singing all week for nothing’ – Tshwane municipal workers
Some of the workers were not impressed by the agreement. Others suggested that they had been 'sold out' by the unions representing them.
Samwu members are seen outside Tshwane House in Pretoria’s CBD during the fourth day of protests over wage increases, 1 August 2019, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles
After a week of protesting, some disgruntled Tshwane municipal workers, who were demanding an 18% salary increase, remain disappointed about a settlement that was reached to bring the strike to an end.
Hundreds of members affiliated to the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) gathered for the fifth day outside the City’s headquarters on Friday morning, where representatives briefed them on the outcomes of salary negotiations that took place at the Bargaining Council in Centurion.
Samwu’s Tshwane chairperson Mpho Tladinyane informed the calm crowd that, while they would not be receiving the 18% increase, they would be receiving ex gratia equalisation payments, as per an agreement with the City.
The municipal workers embarked on the strike on Monday, bringing Pretoria to a standstill and causing traffic mayhem after the city’s buses were used to block some intersections. They were demanding an 18% increase, which they claimed was granted to top managers in the municipality.
The City justified the move by saying that the managers had forfeited their benefits.
Tladinyane told the workers that parties in the Bargaining Council had also reached an agreement that the implementation of the said increases paid to managers would be suspended until a benchmarking exercise on pay scales of other municipalities was completed.
But some of the workers who had been on the streets for the entire week were not impressed by the agreement. Others suggested that they had been “sold out” by the unions representing them.
“Our stance was 18% and nothing else. Now, this [ settlement agreement] means that our singing all this week was for nothing because they are now talking about R15,000 (ex gratia equalisation payments). This means our strike was in vain,” an employee said.
The employee said she was also disappointed that union representatives came to them with feedback, without consulting on whether striking workers on the ground were in agreement.
She said the union had been communicating all other developments, but had failed to consult with them before agreeing to a deal.
Another employee said, while the parties had a settlement agreement in place, he believed there were outstanding issues which still needed to be addressed.
He said they were calling for their increases to be backdated to 2017, but was sure that would never happen.
“We are not entirely happy. We find we are happy with the money we will get anyway, but we would have still wanted it backdated to 2017. Whenever a new mayor takes over, we always hear the same tune that they were not in the office in 2017,” he said.
Tladinyane said he believed that the agreement reached by the parties was a positive one for employees because the process of benchmarking would result in an increase in salaries eventually.
“We are very hopeful and positive that things will work out,” he said.
Workers will return to work on Monday and service delivery, which has been disrupted for the week, will resume.
* The names of employees have been excluded to avoid victimisation