Johannesburg – Thousands of hard-pressed members of the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) marched to Luthuli House on Thursday, where leaders met with Gauteng Premier Panyanza Lesufi and African National Congress Secretary General Fikile Mbabula.
SAMWU said its members were struggling to cope with the ever-increasing cost of food and transport, while at the same time enduring ongoing austerity measures that have unleashed very harsh conditions for the working class.
The union submitted a memorandum of demands that included calls for the Gauteng government to do away with the outsourcing of municipal services.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) said it fully supports SAMWU, its affiliated union.
COSATU national leaders of the Federation joined SAMWU in support of what they said were “workers’ reasonable and sensible demands”.
COSATU added: “We support the call for the elimination of the low wage regime at the local government level, including the failure of the government to pay the Expanded Public and Community Works Programmes’ participants a National Minimum Wage.”
Pressing concerns affecting municipal workers and service delivery that require urgent attention included demands for a new funding model, the reversal of laws preventing municipal workers from holding political office, and unstable coalitions in municipalities.
COSATU said municipalities in the Northern and Eastern Cape, North-West, and Free State, and more recently also Limpopo and Gauteng, are routinely failing to pay their employees.
“The Federation fully supports the call by SAMWU for Treasury, COGTA [Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs] and SALGA [South African Local Government Association] to intervene urgently,” said COSATU.
“A new funding model is needed to halt the rapid slide and collapse of local government.
“The deterioration in basic services is causing many companies to close and send their employees to the unemployment queue. We cannot afford to create rural economic wastelands.”
Premier Lesufi said he will meet with mayors on Tuesday, (16 May 2023) to tackle the issues raised and report back to the union.
“We can’t delay you on this matter. If our workers are not happy, we can’t deliver services,” said Lesufi.
“If there is a problem all of us must go to the table, negotiate and reach agreement and implement those agreements.”