Johannesburg — TENS of thousands of municipal workers downed tools across the country yesterday, severely affecting service delivery in major cities.
The strike, which is in protest against "poor" wage increase offers from the South African Local Government Association (Salga), is expected to last at least until tomorrow while unions obtain a mandate from their members on a new offer.
The South African Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu) and the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union are demanding a 15% pay rise or R2500, whichever is the highest, while Salga has raised its offer to an 11,5% wage increase now and a further 1,5% in January.
Samwu collective bargaining officer Dale Forbes said the increases translated into a minimum salary of R3850 now and R4000 in January.
"We are getting mandates from our members across the country on a new offer which was the outcome of protracted negotiations between the parties over the weekend. These discussions will continue until Wednesday when (Samwu's) national executive committee will convene to assess the strike and determine a way forward," said the union's general secretary, Mthandeki Nhlapo.
He said the union's members came out in full force in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Sol Plaatjie, as well as smaller municipalities including Bredasdorp, Mossel Bay and Beaufort West.
Besides the wage increases, protesters also called on municipalities to fill vacancies. Last year the Treasury issued a report indicating that in 2006 vacancy levels stood at 21,9% in local government, and at 25% at metropolitan councils. In September last year, there was a 16,8% vacancy rate among senior managers responsible for service delivery.
Mzwanele Yawa, Salga's director of labour relations, called on the unions to return to talks, saying the association had already "significantly" upped its wage offer from 10,5%.
"Salga believes that negotiations are the most preferred vehicle to nurture industrial action since this is a critical prerequisite for quality service delivery and development," he said.
There have been a number of strikes in recent weeks as management and labour deadlock on wage negotiations. Later this week mass action is expected at the SABC and Telkom . It will include picketing, go- slows and an overtime ban, with a march expected on August 11.
The Communication Workers' Union (CWU) is demanding an adjustment of salary scales and then a 7,5% raise at Telkom, while the company first wants to give the raise. The SABC is offering between 9,25% and 10,25%, while CWU members want a 12,2% pay rise. With Sapa