South African Municipal Workers Union members protest. Picture: THE HERALD/MIKE HOLMES
South African Municipal Workers Union members protest. Picture: THE HERALD/MIKE HOLMES

The SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) has vowed to intensify its crippling industrial action in Tshwane, which saw the entire CBD gridlocked, should the employer not table a revised wage offer by Tuesday.

Senior managers at the metro got an 18% increase and the workers are demanding a similar increase.

SA’s inflation remained unchanged at 4.5%.

Samwu regional secretary Mpho Tladinyane on Monday said a general workers’ meeting will be called on Tuesday morning to deliberate on an anticipated offer from the employer.

“But if no agreement is reached to break the deadlock we shall intensify our strike action,” said Tladinyane. 

Tladinyane’s deputy Valentine Matlala said: “They (city) have not offered us anything as yet. They are currently having a mayoral committee meeting [on Monday evening] to deliberate on our demands. We shall take it from there.”

An intensified industrial action could see all of the city’s 19,000-strong workforce downing tools in a bid to force the employer to accede to their demand for an 18% wage increase, backdated to 2017.

On Monday, major streets in Tshwane were under lockdown after municipal bus drivers blocked the CBD with buses in support of their demand for high wages. This left hundreds of commuters stranded.

Bus blockade

The striking municipal workers stole buses from the Pretoria depot, parked the vehicles across key intersections leading into the CBD and abandoned them.

City officials were aware there would be protests over union demands for an 18% pay increase for all workers.

“But what then unfortunately happened is that some of our workers at the depot managed to get the depot keys, took out municipal buses to aid the strike that is taking place,” Sheila Senkubuge, a member of the mayoral committee for roads and transport in the city, said on Johannesburg-based Talk Radio 702.

The drivers, members of Samwu, then abandoned the buses and left with the keys, Senkubuge said.

Drivers who took buses may lose their jobs, she said.

Municipal workers were also disgruntled over the council’s decision that will see city manager Moeketsi Mosola receiving a R7.5m payout to step down at the end of July.

The agreement between Mosola and the city council was reached on Thursday in a closed sitting by the Tshwane metro .

Under the mayorship of Solly Msimanga, the DA-led coalition twice attempted to have Mosola suspended from office and failed on both counts. The first attempt was as a result of his alleged role in the GladAfrica matter. Mosola was under investigation for procurement irregularities in connection with the city’s contract with engineering consultants GladAfrica Group. 

GladAfrica was appointed to run a project-management unit for the Tshwane metro. The contract was, however, open-ended and resulted in R318m of irregular expenditure for the 2017/2018 financial year. The second attempt arose from allegations of  contravening the code of conduct for municipal staff members.

On Monday, Tladinyane accused the city of only paying the 18% salary increase to group and divisional heads and leaving out lower-level employees.

“Workers are demanding a fair treatment as those of group and divisional heads. If certain employees can be paid an 18% salary increase surely general workers and cleaners should also be paid a similar increase,” he argued.

“We cannot afford a situation where top managers sit in luxury and pay themselves exorbitant amounts of money while the struggling majority are being taken for granted.” 

The city could not immediately be reached for comment.

In June, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) said its engagements in various municipalities revealed that the management and accounting skills of municipal managers and CFOs was sorely lacking.

This gave rise to a lack of understanding and basic knowledge of how to run “these vital institutions”.

Outa’s CFO and local government financial analyst, Godfrey Gulston, said at the time: “There seems to be a culture of entitlement among some municipal staff that they have been elevated to officials rather than public servants and this must be stopped.”

He warned that if there were no fast improvements into the management of municipalities, community revolts will rise with the potential to result in a "total collapse of some municipalities".

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za