SAMWU and municipality at loggerheads

DFA reports that the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) members recently marched to the Namakwa District Municipality (NDM) to protest against corruption, exploitation, nepotism, a lack of transformation and sexual harassment. The union members called for the resignations of the HR director and the municipal manager (MM). The members have accused the HR director of “inappropriate sexual behaviour towards female workers”, while the MM is accused of being “unfit to run the institution”.

The MM is further accused of being responsible for “poor and unsound labour relations” at the district municipality. He is also accused by Samwu of behaving in an “anti-union, anti-shop steward manner”. The march on November 21 came after negotiations between Samwu and the employer continued to reach a deadlock over the past five years. During the march, the union members handed over a memorandum of demands to the executive mayor, Mervin Cloete, and the MM.

The demands listed in the memorandum dealt with adjustments to level 7 salary levels, sexual harassment at the workplace, the alleged misconduct of the MM, corruption at NDM, transformation and employment equity. Samwu said the workers have been engaged in a protracted struggle with the employer for far too long. Samwu shop steward Promise Nyanda said the employer has been negotiating with unions on matters of mutual interest relating to the fair adjustment of the T-levels of municipal employees. Nyanda claimed the municipality has, however, throughout the process had no intention to bargain in good faith, but instead sought to “benefit a select few at the expense of the majority”.

The union further demanded access to all the financials of the municipality, including but not limited to the previous and most recent transactions done with third or any other parties. Samwu also wants to be provided with the latest audited statements over and above its main demand of T-level adjustments. It further demanded that the financial and non-financial impact on employees be established and that the employer, in proper consultation with the union, compile an organogram.

According to Samwu, some of its members have been subjected to sexual harassment and there has been no consequence management and accountability with regard to the alleged perpetrators. Samwu claimed that corrupt activities were taking place at the local municipalities, without any oversight and consequence management. The union called for an independent forensic investigation to be put into place to probe all the allegations. Failure to do so, it said, would result in the matter being reported to the relevant law enforcement agencies for “decisive action” to be taken. Samwu also demanded that the employer establish and implement employment equity measures as provided for by the Employment Equity Act and related policies.

In response, the Namakwa District Municipality said it disagreed with the approach and view on the nature of the dispute by the Samwu members. In the response to the union, signed by the MM, the district municipality stated that the dispute lodged with the SALGBC was in relation to the non-consultation of the organogram, for which an unresolved certificate was issued. “The municipality is not compelled to concede to your demands and the proposals made within our limits were done in good faith, were transparent and openly discussed, but unfortunately rejected,” stated the municipal response.

On the alleged sexual harassment at the workplace, the municipality regarded the allegations as “unacceptable” and an “assassination of character”. “Let us put it categorically, your demand for the resignation of [the senior manager] is uncalled for and totally unacceptable. It misrepresents and is a distortion of historical facts. This is nothing short of defamation and assassination of character. The municipality has a policy in place which enshrines the rights of women in the workplace. “The municipality is against any form of abuse towards women, children or any person. To this end, we continuously support the Thursdays in Black initiative. On transformation and employment equity, the NDM stated: “The employment equity plan of the Namakwa District Municipality is available for all to see.

“With regards to corruption at NDM, the municipality stated that it has high regard for its policy on fraud, corruption and ethics. The policy is an appropriate guide to report on any suspicion. Failure to report any fraudulent or corrupt activities should be avoided at all costs.The MM bluntly refused to comment on the allegations of people remaining on the municipality’s payroll after leaving the institution.

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