Municipal union bargains on bigger numbers

By Carien Du Plessis 19 August 2011

Disgruntled municipal workers in Gauteng have so far stayed away from Samwu’s stay-away, but leaders hope Friday’s march will restore the union’s infamy. Police are ready to douse possible flames, CARIEN DU PLESSIS reports.

Johannesburg Metro police spokesman Wayne Minnaar didn’t mince the few words he did utter. Municipal workers union Samwu is only marching along a short stretch of road in Johannesburg on Friday, and police will be there to keep the order and direct traffic.

He couldn’t confirm how many people the police were expecting, meaning they didn’t have a clue. Neither did the union, yet they were threatening that their members would come to the city centre in their numbers.

Despite strikes erupting in a bad way in places like the DA-controlled Cape Town, where bins were set alight (R92 000 worth of dustbins, apparently) and rioters ran amok, in Johannesburg and Pretoria things have been uneventful since Monday, when the strike started.

Last year the Johannesburg CBD was turned into a rubbish heap full of overturned bins, but this year, most municipal workers went to work as usual to protest against their leadership, which they have accused of embezzling R6 million of union money.

The province has suspended two officials – perhaps in a move to appease members ahead of Friday’s march.

Samwu has promised peaceful action and said the violence in other cities was due to a “third force”.

It’s demanding an 18% increase for its members, while the South African Local Government Association is offering just over 6%.

There have also been political undertones in this strike, as Samwu is unhappy about the way the Municipal Systems Amendment Act was signed into law by President Jacob Zuma last month, even though the union was under the impression that more consultation would take place.

The act prohibits party leaders from being municipal managers and changes some bargaining procedures. DM

Photo: Striking workers of the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) march through Durban disposing garbage into the streets and setting rubbish bins on fire, August 17, 2011. The unions are demanding an 18 percent increase in wages and the banning of labour brokers. REUTERS/Rogan Ward.



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