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 hailed as a minor victory the agreement that ended its crippling strike in the capital on Thursday.

As part of the agreement that was reached with the city of Tshwane’s management during the conciliation process under the auspices of the SA Local Government Bargaining Council, the metro will “dismantle” with immediate effect the controversial 18% salary increase for group and divisional heads.

Municipal employees embarked on industrial action on Monday, which put the whole Tshwane CBD under lockdown as the city’s bus drivers blocked major routes with buses, leaving hundreds of commuters stranded. Businesses also took a knock as they were forced to close their doors.

The workers were demanding that the 18% wage increase be implemented to lower-level employees as well and be backdated to 2017.

As part of the agreement that ended the strike, Samwu general secretary Koena Ramotlou said a once-off ex-gratia payment of R15,000 would be paid to workers earning less than R20,000 per month, R10,000 for those earning up to R30,000, and R7,000 for those earning more than R30,000.

Ramotlou’s deputy, Dumisane Magagula, said the payments would be implemented from Monday. He said the city had agreed to embark on a benchmarking exercise on the payscale of other metro municipalities. 

City of Tshwane spokesperson Omogolo Taunyane explained that the exercise would be run over 60 days, and was intended to ensure that “whatever our employees are getting paid is fair”. They also wanted to establish whether the city’s salary ranking was appropriate.

Magagula said this was a step in the right direction, arguing: “It’s not necessarily a major victory, but it’s definitely a victory for now.”

The strike had a damaging effect on local businesses in the city centre. Capital City Business Chamber’s executive director for strategic development, Chrys Haitas, told Business Day that businesses had not been able to function properly during strike.

“A lot of doors were closed and people could not go to work. Some businesses have totally shut down,” she said, taking issue with the fact that the strikers trashed the CBD in support of their wage demands.

“The whole place needs to be cleaned up. The inner city is not a conducive environment to conduct business, it’s not pleasant at the moment,” Haitas said.

She said the chamber had not yet quantified the losses businesses suffered because “it’s not something you can do that easily but I can tell you now that the strike has not been pleasant. A lot of doors have not been open at all”.

Taunyane apologised to the residents and the business community, saying the strike’s negative effects were unfortunate.

“We are looking at things getting back to normal from Monday.”

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za