City of Joburg scrambles to resolve Samwu’s wage woes after highway barricade

Samwu members march in this profile photo.

  • A task force has until Friday to address concerns raised by the South African municipal workers’ union over wage disparities in the city of Joburg.
  • Samwu members closed parts of the M1 motorway last week due to a lack of progress on implementing the 2016 wage normalisation agreement.
  • Johannesburg Mayor Mpho Phalatse said the Metro’s multi-party government was open to Labour over pay progress.
  • For more financial news, please visit News24 Business Front Page.

The city of Johannesburg and the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) have sent a team to come up with a solution to the subway pay gap by Friday after union members blocked a major highway in the city over the grievances.

Samwu members’ decision last week to erect M1 roadblocks in Johannesburg after Johannesburg Mayor Mpho Phalatse failed to meet them last week exposed a standoff between Metro management and labour over inconsistent pay and pay schedules.

The problem is the failure to properly implement the Political Facilitation Agreement (PFA) to address the wage gap among subway employees. The agreement was reached in 2016, but Samwu said it was still not properly applied six years later.

Metro and Samwu held a meeting late Friday afternoon and agreed that the financially troubled city will assess its ability to correct wage and pay progress gaps this week.

read | WATCH | Municipal worker sets up barricade on Joburg highway, jails city manager ‘against his will’

Karabo Ramahuma, the treasurer of Samwu, Gauteng, told News24 that the union had intended to meet management on Thursday about the 2016 PFA, but members were frustrated after they were unable to meet the mayor. He insisted that the barricades were not a strike but a sign of frustration among members.

“The PFA was an agreement we made during the 2016 strike because we said the city used an incorrect salary scale. Some councils pay their people more for the same job than the largest subway in the country The city also did not take into account the length of our membership service,” Ramahuma said.

Ramahuma said that since the PFA came into force in 2016, it has not been implemented across the metro, adding that the metro only chooses to apply the PFA, depending on which department can exert the most direct pressure on management.

“What the city did in the process was they just picked a group of managers, like the deputy director, and decided to apply PFA to them. We continued to engage and they responded to which department put pressure on them. It’s a piecemeal job,” Ramahuma said.

He said a task force would determine the amount that could be paid to staff Monday through Friday, while the rest of the pay schedule would be left to budget adjustments. Once the team has worked out an offer by Friday, Samwu will hand it over to members, Ramahuma said.

read | Joburg municipal workers return to work after strike over wage discrepancy

In a statement, Phalatse said Metro was open with Samwu on budget restrictions fully implemented by the PFA, adding that the city and labor agreed on a way forward.

“It must be on the record that the city has played the open card with the union and we have collectively agreed to implement the PFA in phases, starting this September. The main goal of the PFA was to try to resolve a litany of complaints related to wage disparities that existed across the city at the time. ,” Phalatse said.

Compared to past governments, Metro’s multi-party government has been genuinely involved in unions, Phalatse said, saying the relationship between Metro and Labour “is in a bad state, and in some cases doesn’t even exist”.

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