About 250 000 workers from 300 municipalities around the country are poised to down tools if last-ditch negotiations currently underway fail to produce the desired results for the South African Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu).
This is according to the union's spokesperson Tahir Sema, who on Wednesday said local government strikes would take place right across the country. "It will be a national strike, because the issues are of a national nature," he said.
Final negotiations between Samwu and the South African Local Government Bargaining Council began on Tuesday and are currently underway but remain deadlocked.
"Currently [Wednesday] as we speak, there is a facilitated negotiation process taking place between Samwu and the local government bargaining council," Sema told the Mail & Guardian.
The talks relate to long-term employee concerns, which had not been resolved by the South African Local Government Association (Salga) for years, said Sema.
"Many of these issues have been outstanding and on the bargaining agenda for many years now," he said.
"The employer body's arrogance has shown us if they weren't willing to reach an agreement back then, chances are it won't happen now, but we can't say for sure."
The union hoped that next year's national elections would give Salga the "political will" to be more flexible in its negotiations. However, so far the employer had shown no such inclination, he said.
"It would be in our favour if [the upcoming election] injects urgency into their negotiations, but so far we have seen none of that."
The party's grievances pertain to the collective agreement that governs the sector, the disciplinary code, an increase in the homeowners' allowance and a dispute about bringing municipal-owned entities under the scope of the South African Local Government Bargaining Council.
The negotiations will end on Thursday afternoon regardless of whether a deal had been struck, said Samwu's Sema. After that, the union would decide what form of protest action would take place and when it would begin, he said.
Salga did not respond to questions around why it had not responded to Samwu's grievances previously, or whether the union might be overstating the number of strikers expected to down tools. Buhle Ngwenya, a spokesperson for the union told the M&G: "Salga is not aware of looming strike action and as such has not received notification of such action from unions."