LEADERS of the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) are desperately trying to avert a strike.
While workers are pushing for a strike to force the SA Local Government Association to yield to their wage demand, the union leadership is under pressure to sway workers to sign a deal. Samwu is demanding 15% or R4,000 for all employees.
Insiders said the union’s leadership had considered the political implications of a strike which could have disastrous outcomes for the ruling party in next year’s local government elections. Samwu is an affiliate of Cosatu which is in alliance with the ANC.
“When we consulted workers in different regions to report back on the latest offer presented by the facilitator they rejected it. They want to force the employer to consider their demands on the streets,” said an insider.
“As leaders we feel that the strike will harm the party (ANC) campaign for next year’s elections.”
But Samwu spokesman Papikie Mohale denied that the union’s leadership was persuading workers not to go on strike. “There is no such a thing as trying to convince workers not to strike, and I do not know about political implications should we go on strike. But you must remember that a strike is very expensive, our members lose money because they do not get paid when on a strike. But that does not mean we will be bullied to sign an agreement which will not benefit our members.”
Mr Mohale also denied that the leadership was preventing workers from striking to protect the ANC ahead of local government elections.
“We are not a political organisation but a trade union. We are not going to elections next year. It is the government going to elections and that has nothing to do with us. It would therefore be mischiveous to link Samwu and next year’s elections,” he said.
Samwu failed to meet last week’s deadline to respond to the facilitator’s offer of 7% at the South African Local Government Bargaining Council. But Mr Mohale said Samwu had asked for an extension to respond to the facilitator’s proposal to consult workers.
The other union in the sector, the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union, said it would accept the 7% offer on condition that all stakeholders agreed to it.