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The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) stands in solidarity with workers that are on strike at the Sibanye Stillwater, the University of South Africa and the South African Revenue Service (SARS) organised by our sister unions, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU).
Workers at the Sibanye Stillwater mine have been on strike since February 2022 due to the greedy employer refusing to pay a demand of a mere R1000 increase. Of great concern to us is that instead of conceding to the demand by workers, management at the Sibanye Stillwater made the situation worse by paying the CEO, Neal Froneman R300 million.
It is for this reason that we support the call by NUM that Sibanye Stillwater’s mining license be revoked. It cannot be correct that instead of negotiating with workers in good faith, Sibanye Stillwater management takes a decision to retrench workers. The threats by Sibanye to issue Section 189 notices to mineworkers is nothing but a ploy to discourage workers from demanding decent and living wages in the mining industry.
As SAMWU, we are convinced that the employer is not negotiating in good faith, the fact that during a period wherein the mine is pleading poverty, it was able to pay its CEO a huge remuneration whose sum none of the mineworkers will ever make in their lifetime. The decision by Sibanye Stillwater to reward the CEO for denying mine workers a salary increase by paying him this ridiculous and exorbitant amount is a direct provocation and a spit in the faces of mineworkers who on a daily basis risk their lives underground to sustain the inflated salaries and lifestyles of the mine’s executive management.
At the University of South Africa (UNISA) management has taken a deliberate decision to terminate the employment contracts of union leaders at the institution. The persecution of these workers is exposing fraud, corruption and maladministration at the institution. For us, this is nothing but an antic by the university management to bash unions. The university management knows very well that the union is workers’ first line of defence and as such, the surgical removal of union leaders would allow them to continue enriching themselves. We are further of the view that these dismissals are aimed at intimidating, silencing workers and instilling fear among workers.
We have also noted that following a deadlock in the salary and wage negotiations between the revenue collection agency, SARS and NEHAWU, workers resolved to conclude the negotiations on the street. To make things worse, SARS reneged From implementing the last leg of the agreement signed between them and trade unions. By unilaterally changing the increase due to workers, SARS has not only pickpocketed workers but has declared war with workers. The attitude of SARS in this situation is one that can only be characterised by a direct attack on collective bargaining in the country.
We are however not surprised by the decision taken by SARS to deny workers salary increases. This decision is one of the neoliberal policies by the government that are being championed by the National Treasury. Seemingly the National Treasure and the Minister of Finance have delegated themselves as a super-ministry that can dictate terms of negotiations in bargaining councils for public servants.
It is absolutely ludicrous for National Treasury to always be seen as the chief negotiator in bargaining councils that involve the public sector. This attitude and posture is one that we as SAMWU experienced during our last salary and wage negotiations for municipal workers wherein the National Treasury encouraged municipalities to budget zero % salary increase, an encouragement that many municipalities have taken, denying municipal workers increases.
We do not need to remind the National Treasury, government and the Minister of Finance that in all bargaining councils, including the SALGBC, there is no party called National Treasury. As such, unions are negotiating with their respective employers and not the National treasury. The super ministry status that the National Treasury has bestowed upon itself has created a trust deficit between workers and the government as an employer.
This all happens at a time when members of Parliament are set to receive salary increases of no less than R35 000 per member while the President of the Republic will be receiving a salary increase of R90 000. Surely government does have the money required to pay public servants salary increases that would cushion them for the current economic hardships they face, hardships which are not of their own making.
We, therefore, commend workers at SARS for taking the battle to the doors of the employer, seemingly the only language that the employer understands is the withdrawal of labour power by workers. It cannot be correct that public servants are used as sacrificial lambs wherein they are denied salary increases in favour of politicians.
Just last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa shockingly announced that members of Parliament who earn a million Rand are struggling to make ends meet. What of the workers who are paid peanuts on a monthly basis, workers whose salaries are not subsided by free accommodation and transport by the state as is with the case of members of Parliament.
Based on the slogan “an injury to one is an injury to all” which unites workers and the working class, SAMWU, is in full support of the strike actions at the three institutions. By standing up and fighting back, workers are expressing their dissatisfaction and frustrations which have been exacerbated by the rising cost of living, a cost which workers are unable to catch up with.
Workers in all spheres of government, including those in municipalities should prepare themselves to defend collective bargaining viciously and by all means possible. The National Treasury has shown that they are pushing ahead with their cost-cutting measures which are being implemented at the expense of workers’ livelihoods.
As SAMWU, we encourage our members and municipal workers, in general, to stand up, and show solidarity with workers at Sibanye Stillwater, UNISA and SARS. We further encourage municipal workers to join pickets and demonstrations organised by both NEHAHU and the NUM. These are times wherein workers should demonstrate their collective unity against the class enemy being capital and the new entrant to this category being the State.
Workers in all sectors and industries should jealously guard and defend collective bargaining which was achieved through the sweat and blood of our forebears. An injury to one is an injury to all.
Issued by SAMWU Secretariat