Samwu claims thousands of workers will take part in ‘national strike’

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." 

Flexible negotiations
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."

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Thalia Holmes
Thalia Holmes

Thalia is a freelance business reporter for the Mail & Guardian. She grew up in Swaziland and lived in the US before returning to South Africa.

She got a cum laude degree in marketing and followed it with another in English literature and psychology before further confusing things by becoming a black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) consultant.

After spending five years hearing the surprised exclamation, "But you're white!", she decided to pursue her latent passion for journalism, and joined the M&G in 2012. 

The next year, she won the Brandhouse Journalist of the Year Award, the Brandhouse Best Online Award and was chosen as one of five finalists from Africa for the German Media Development Award. In 2014, she and a colleague won the Standard Bank Sivukile Multimedia Award. 

She now writes and edits for various publications, but her heart still belongs to the M&G.     

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