More SA unions threaten to back strike

A South African municipal strike took another twist in its seventh day on Wednesday when two other unions threatened solidarity labour action if local government officials fail to bow to wage demands.

The strike, which started on Tuesday last week, was sparked by the government’s decision to impose a pay increase and has been marred by violence and street vandalism.

The South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu), which organises the strike, maintains that the imposed wage rise leaves its members’ salaries below a living wage.

Samwu and the South African Local Government Association (Salga) seemed to be struggling to clinch an agreement this week after months of discussions and mediation talks.

“Should Salga deliberately continue to frustrate efforts to resolve this strike amicably, we will seriously consider taking solidarity strike in support of our comrades,” said South African Transport and Allied Workers Union in a statement.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa pledged its support for striking workers, saying it would call on members to picket local government buildings and hold lunch hour demonstrations if Salga did not meet to consider recent offers.

HOPES OF A MEETING

Samwu representative Dale Forbes said on Wednesday the union—which has 120 000 members—was trying to organise a meeting with employers group Salga, to discuss a report emanating from talks between the two sides at the weekend.

“We are hoping that a meeting will take place between ourselves and Salga later today, and we are still waiting for a confirmation of that meeting,” Forbes told Reuters.

“We hope to discuss the technical report. We can’t reveal the details of the report, but it is a proposal that is a compromise between the current positions of the two parties.”

Water services and refuse collection are among services threatened by the nationwide strike.

Rio Nolutshungu, spokesman for the South African Local Government Association (Salga), said the employer would not be meeting Samwu on Wednesday, but it would discuss the report to see whether common ground could be found.

Samwu is demanding an across-the-board wage rise of R300 a month or 10%, whichever is greater. The sector’s minimum monthly salary is R1 900 rand.

Employers say they have already raised an original offer of a seven percent wage increase in the year starting July 1 to eight percent.
This is well above the government’s three to six percent target for the CPIX inflation index, but below its latest annual increase of 9,2%.

“We still stand with the implementation of the eight percent wage increase,” Nolutshungu told Reuters.

“However, parallel to our stand we are busy engaging in the process of consulting our principals to see whether we can go back to re-negotiate.”

Workers went on the rampage last week, overturning and vandalising rubbish bins in some of South Africa’s major cities, including Johannesburg and Durban - Reuters

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