Johannesburg – Members of the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) and workers at Rand Water are downing tools on an indefinite protected strike from tomorrow.
This is despite Rand Water saying their strike would be deemed illegal and unprotected.
Rand Water is a bulk water supply utility responsible for supplying water to municipalities and industries in Gauteng, North West, Mpumalanga and the Free State.
The strike will take place at Rand Water’s head office at 522 Impala Road, Glenvista.
Samwu’s demands include a R4 000 salary increase for all workers who fall under the South African Local Government Bargaining Council, a R15 000 sectoral minimum wage, a R3 500 housing allowance for all workers, an 80% employer medical aid contribution and a 20% employee contribution, six months’ fully paid maternity leave and one month’s fully paid paternity leave, and a 25% employer contribution towards employees’ pension funds.
Samwu’s Gauteng deputy provincial secretary, Mamorena Madisha, said the protected strike action had been called in terms of section 64(1) read with section 64(4) of the Labour Relations Act.
“Samwu has successfully referred a dispute to the CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration) regarding the unilateral change of conditions of employment and service for workers at Rand Water, as communicated by the employer to workers on March 31, 2021.
“The employer has already been informed of our intentions to go on strike from April 21. Despite the CCMA ruling in the union’s favour, the employer has decided that they will not comply with the order,” said Madisha.
Rand Water spokesperson Justice Mohale said the utility confirmed received a written notice from Samwu stating their intention to strike.
“The matter is in the hands of CCMA. Mediation has been set for April 28. Once the CCMA hear the matter and the two parties fail to reach an agreement, CCMA would issue a certificate of non-resolution. That is when unions can have the right to go on strike. If they go ahead with the strike before April 28, it’s declared illegal and unprotected. Rand Water is designated as an essential service provider,” he said.
“We want to pass a message to our customers that Rand Water has adequate systems in place to ensure a sustained supply of bulk, potable water to customers. Employees within the organisation are essential workers; they will be expected to be working,” said Mohale.
Madisha said Samwu’s decision to embark on a strike had been difficult.
“Taps will definitely run dry in all areas that are serviced by Rand Water. However, this is a noble, justifiable and well within our rights. We, however, as a trade union will not allow the employer to bully workers by unilaterally changing employees’ conditions of service without any consultation whatsoever. Our members and their interests come first,” she said.
Madisha said an ultimatum had been given to the employer immediately to reverse its anti-worker practice and restore all terms and conditions of employment, including incentive bonuses.
“Our attempts to engage the employer was also to ensure that there is labour stability at the water board. It, however, seems as though the union has been talking to people who are not interested in seeing residents and businesses having uninterrupted water supply.
“We firmly believe that our demands are truly justified and important to the livelihoods of the entire workforce of the utility,” said Madisha.
Madisha said Rand Water should consider the strike as a “dry run” for what would be be coming its way when Samwu presented its salary and wage demands at the Amanzi Bargaining Council, which includes the country’s 12 water boards.
“We want to state to Rand Water and all other water boards that Samwu is ready to defend its members and will not stand idle when their gains are being reversed,” said Madisha.