Editorial: Workers hold state to ransom

 

 

The story of the “early Christmas” double salary for workers at Nkomazi local municipality in Mpumalanga is an instructive lesson on how not to govern.

Last month the cash-strapped rural municipality erroneously paid R13.6-million in salaries to its 1073 employees 10 days before their actual payday, and promptly informed workers they would not be paid on the 25th when their salaries were due.

This recovery incensed general workers, who then went about laying sabotage to the municipality by shutting off water to towns and villages in its jurisdiction and ultimately forcing management to bend and pay salaries again in the same month.

Now the municipality is contemplating deducting 20% of workers salaries for seven months to recoup the money, but even this is being rejected by workers, who regard the overpayment as a “gift”.

It is heartening that the council only has to recover something in the region of R4-million, apparently because senior managers agreed to forgo the second payment.

The council’s capitulation to pure thuggery and extortion by its employees is an example of how political considerations — in this instance for labour — trump its financial wellbeing which in turn affects on service delivery.

All this in a municipality whose adjusted budget for the previous financial year recorded a R6.5-million deficit and whose revenue for the current financial year is set at R1.26-billion — R30-million more than its expenditure for the year.

Looking at the condition of our state-owned entities, and the actions being taken to halt their decline, it is a malaise that is also manifest at the highest levels of our government.

Recent examples at Eskom saw the utility’s former chief executive Phakamani Hadebe embarrassed in 2018 when his stance of no increases for staff was overturned by Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, who announced a wage deal, but it was one that Eskom couldn’t afford. Months later the shareholder would refuse to allow Eskom to implement much-needed planned outages to do critical maintenance work on ageing coal stations.

The same sort of pandering at SAA has brought the airline to the brink, with Finance Minister Tito Mboweni refusing to budge on a request for a R2-billion cash bailout for SAA to pay salaries in this month.

In fact, Mboweni is arguing for decisive action on SAA by either placing it in business rescue or liquidation.

The airline has paid 50% of salaries to employees, as well as half of 13th cheques for those who structured their salaries in that way and took deductions throughout the year, with a promise that the rest would be paid by Monday.

Even that depends on whether Gordhan will accede to a request for a guarantee required by lenders before they advance this operational loan.

Perhaps Mboweni is tired of being held to ransom by a company that signed a wage agreement without any idea of how it would be fulfilled.

Perhaps he cannot understand an airline that, instead of acting in real ways to turn itself around, has sunk millions in expensive executive hires that have yielded no value.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertising

READ IT IN FULL: Ramaphosa’s address on the extension of...

This is the full address given by President Cyril Ramaphosa on April 9

Meet the doctor leading Africa’s fight to contain the coronavirus...

Dr Matshidiso Moeti’s father helped to eliminate smallpox. Now she’s leading Africa’s efforts against the coronavirus

Stella set to retain her perks

Communication minister will keep Cabinet perks during her two months of special leave

Covid-19 grounds Nigeria’s medical tourists

The country’s elites, including the president, travelled abroad for treatment but now they must use the country’s neglected health system

Press Releases

Rahima Moosa Hospital nursing college introduces no-touch facial recognition access system

The new system allows the hospital to enrol people’s faces immediately, using artificial intelligence, and integrates easily with existing access control infrastructure, including card readers and biometrics

Everyone’s talking about it. Even Kentucky

Earlier this year South African fried chicken fast-food chain, Chicken Licken®, launched a campaign for their wallet-friendly EasyBucks® meals, based on the idea of ‘Everyone’s talking about it.’

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world