Pretoria – The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) on Friday said its members would not tolerate discussions about taking any salary cuts to contribute to the coronavirus Solidarity Fund established by the government to support initiatives aimed at fighting the pandemic.
Samwu’s remarks followed announcements of the voluntary salary cuts made by President Cyril Ramaphosa, Cabinet, Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina and his mayoral executives in a bid to donate to the national Covid-19 fund.
“The mayor (Masina) further said that there are discussions that workers would have their salaries cut by 5% for the coming three months. We place it on record that our members and municipal workers in general would not be participating in this salary cut challenge,” Samwu said in a statement.
“We further place it on record that there are no discussions between unions and the City (of Ekurhuleni) on workers participating in this challenge. If anything the statement by the mayor seeks not only to demoralise the municipal workers but also to drive a wedge between the union and its members.”
Samwu said although it sympathises and recognises the need for more resources to be channelled towards South Africa’s coronavirus response efforts, such responses cannot be done by “pickpocketing municipal workers on their hard-earned money, which is not even enough to cover their basic needs as they are not paid decent wages”.
The union said municipal workers are at the bottom of the food chain.
“They simply do not have money lying around like politicians. We will therefore leave this challenge to politicians as we are not prepared and will not subsidise operations of employers,” said Samwu.
The union said municipalities should be talking about remuneration of workers who are on the front line to ensure that South Africans are safe and healthy and that there is continuation of service delivery.
Samwu also called for payment of overtime to workers who have put in extra hours outside their normal working time.
“We therefore urge all of the country’s 254 municipalities and their entities to not even dare and include municipal workers as participants in this challenge of theirs. Forcing municipal workers to take a salary cut would be a declaration of war, a war that municipal workers are prepared and well oiled to fight to the bitter end,” said Samwu.
“We therefore expect municipalities to pay workers their salaries in full, including their benefits in line with their conditions of service.”
Announcing the extension of the current lockdown on Thursday night, Ramaphosa warned that ending it too soon would see the disease “consume” the country.
The lockdown, which was initially set to end at midnight on April 16, will now continue until the end of the month.
The president gave the latest tally of infections as 1 934 and said the gains in slowing the infection rate would rapidly be lost if the lockdown was ended too soon or abruptly.
African News Agency/ANA
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By Jonisayi Maromo