SALGA pulls out all stops to end strike

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Johannesburg - The South African Local Government Association (SALGA) is pulling out all the stops to end the municipal workers strike which has crippled service delivery in several provinces.

Thousands of municipal workers belonging to the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU), and Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (IMATU) downed tools on Monday, demanding a 15 percent wage increase.

The protests have affected basic services such as refuse collection and have led to a closure of many licensing stations in several provinces.

In a frantic plea on Tuesday, SALGA chairperson and Johannesburg Mayor Amos Masondo called for calm and urged the striking workers to refrain from damaging property during their mass action.

"We condemn this behaviour. We are calling for calm and we ask everyone to provide leadership and the necessary guidance," said Mr Masondo.

He said SALGA was disturbed and concerned about the reported cases of violence and littering during Monday's protest.

Clean up operations were underway on Tuesday in parts of Johannesburg after workers emptied rubbish bins on the streets while sidewalks and several street lights were also damaged.

Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana also condemned the behaviour of the workers calling for good sense to prevail.

"The violent behaviour of a few people was not only tarnishing whatever genuine grievances that they had, but was also undermining the very good cause of their right to strike.

"I call on all those involved in these unlawful actions to immediately observe discipline as they are demonising the real concerns of the majority of the workers. Violence can only harden attitudes," said Minister Mdladlana.

Attempts to get comment from both the SAMU and the IMATU were unsuccessful.

As the strike entered its second day on Tuesday, Mr Masondo said the employer body has come up with contingency plans to ensure that basic services were not affected by the industrial action.

"We are doing everything to ensure that lives and property are protected and the general safety of all citizens is taken care of," Mr Masondo said.

Residents who may find pay-points for water and lights not operating, are advised to make use of the Easy Pay outlets such as Pick n' Pay; Shoprite Checkers; Woolworths; SA Post Office and major banking institutions. These institutions will accept municipal account statements for recording payment.

Regarding the Metro bus services, residents are advised to make alternative travel arrangements and they will be credited for the unused trips.

On waste collection, any visit missed will be conducted the following week, on the regular day of collection. However, those who prefer to use their own transport, may deliver rubbish at any of the 42 garden sites, near their residence.

In clinics, restaurants and hospitals where disease can spread, special arrangements have been made to collect waste regularly.

Cemeteries within the City during the strike are expected to cope with present available graveyards.

New dates will also be set for driving license tests, if candidates were unable to get services, on the date previously arranged.

Mr Masondo said SALGA was confident that discussions over the revised offer tabled to the unions could still yield positive results.

The proposal involves an 11.5 percent wage increase effective from July 2009 with an additional 1.5 percent by January next year. SALGA has also enforced a minimum wage of R3 850 from July and this will increase to R4 000 from January next year.

Other benefits which have been revised include a home owners allowance which will be R100 000 for the 2009/1010 financial year and will increase to R110 000 by 2010/2011.

Mr Masondo said the unions have agreed to take the proposals to their members for further consultations and talks are due to reconvene on Thursday.

"Our response has taken into consideration that municipalities are facing complex challenges and operating within the climate of a global economic recession," Mr Masondo said.