STRIKES TO SHUT CITIES

Mthandeki Nhlapo. 04/07/2008. Pic: Hetty Zantman. © Financial Mail.
Mthandeki Nhlapo. 04/07/2008. Pic: Hetty Zantman. © Financial Mail.

Municipal services will grind to a halt across South Africa today when about 150000 unionised workers strike for hefty salary increases and generous housing allowances.

Municipal services will grind to a halt across South Africa today when about 150000 unionised workers strike for hefty salary increases and generous housing allowances.

The South African Municipal Workers Union and Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union say they will take all their members out on the streets from today to press their demands for more than R10billion a year in benefits.

Municipalities would have to request special dispensations for "skeletal" staff to run essential services, but even nurses, metro police officers, firemen and ambulance drivers would be expected to join the picket lines.

Negotiations between the employers' representatives and the unions deadlocked in Kempton Park on Friday.

Samwu is demanding a minimum wage of R5000 a month, an across-the-board wage increase of R2500 a month or 15percent, whichever is greater, and 70percent of housing bonds up to R200000 or R3000 a month in rental assistance.

Imatu has demanded an across-the-board increase of 13percent, a minimum wage of R4020 and a housing allowance of up to R120000.

The South African Local Government Association, which represents the employers, has offered across-the-board increases of 11,5percent, with another 1,5percent in January.

But the municipalities say ratepayers cannot afford to pay for the housing of every employee as well as other perks that the unions are demanding.

Unions told Salga they needed to consult their members and would come back with an answer on Wednesday. But Samwu general secretary Mthandeki Nhlapo said his members would picket outside every municipal and Salga offices.

Salga negotiator Mzi Yawa said "a number of employees" said the new offer was reasonable.

He said municipalities' current wage bill was R36billion a year, excluding the "ridiculous" demands such as housing allowances.

"The minimum salary in municipalities is R3250. Our offer of 11,5percent will not only increase wages but also medical aid and pensions," he said.

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