The City of Tshwane. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
The City of Tshwane. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

The Tshwane metro, which houses SA’s administrative capital, has bowed to pressure again from unions, implementing an agreement that will put its employees’ wages on par with those of other top municipalities in the country.

This is despite protestations by city administrator Mpho Nawa that such increases could lead to financial ruin for the cash-strapped metro. He said the agreement would cost the city  R300m to implement.

The decision is likely to put an extra strain on the metro’s finances that are already feeling the effect of the national lockdown as residents, companies and government departments struggle to pay for services rendered.

The benchmarking agreement, signed between the metro, the SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) and the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu), was aimed at putting Tshwane workers’ salaries on the same benchmark as those of their counterparts in the country's seven other metros. SA has eight metropolitan councils.

Last month the metro, which was placed under administration by the Gauteng provincial government in March mainly because of political infighting, relented to pressure from the unions,  awarding its employees  a  6.25% annual increase. Nawa said the increase would have a “devastating effect” on the city’s already dire finances, with the wage bill to balloon by R45m a month.

Regarding the benchmarking agreement, Nawa said there was nothing they could do as a precedent had already been set when workers were paid for the 2017/2018 period — as part of the agreement — in January 2020. “So our hands were tied, basically,” he told Business Day on Friday.

The workers will be paid for 2017/2018 on August 26.

Payments for 2018/2019 will be made at the latest on December 26, on condition that the metro achieves “a revenue collection rate of 95%”.

The signed agreement stated that the parties will reopen discussions on how the outstanding balance will be paid if the revenue target is not met.

Nawa said they will soon  introduce a shift system for their 24,000 employees and embark on a worker verification programme, measures he said would save money.

“The suspicion that we have is that there could be ghost workers in the system. The unions have agreed on this verification process,” he said.

Imatu Tshwane regional manager Rudy de Bruyn said the union had at all times dealt with the benchmarking matter “professionally and ethically to ensure that [our members’] interests and [their] jobs were protected”. He said the agreement was achieved without “reverting to violence, destruction of property or putting the lives of our members at risk”.

Capital City Business Chamber executive director Chrys Haitas said it was not unexpected for unions to expect wage increases, “regardless of the challenging times. However, it is also important to note that all stakeholders, that is, labour, government, business and community, each still needs to take responsibility and bring their part to the table and not just to have expectations. [They must] also look at how we can all collaborate to advance economic recovery,” said Haitas.

 “There is a huge need for understanding the needs of each stakeholder and for each to sit around a table and work together. That is the best approach."

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