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Union, municipality at loggerheads

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Samwu members marched to the Namakwa District Municipality to protest against corruption, exploitation, nepotism, a lack of transformation and sexual harassment.

Picture: Supplied

SA 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.

They emphasised that they refuse to stand idle and watch on while the rights and interests of workers are eroded by the bosses.

They also called on all workers and communities to unite and oppose all forms of “exploitation and suppression” at the municipality.

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”.

“We, as workers, are always willing and ready to negotiate in good faith through the established bargaining structures. We are currently in a deadlock situation created by the employer and not by us,” said Nyanda.

“We have noted with dismay the unfair proposals of the employer and the skewed, dubious manner in which the employer presented its proposals.

She said Samwu demanded total transparency regarding any restructuring of the workplace, as well as better quality adjustments of T-level posts in an equitable manner without prejudice to any employee.

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.

“There is a CFO who recently resigned and is working for the mines, but he is still on the municipality’s payroll. The justification from management is that he is still assisting at the municipality with some other things.

“Someone else was taken from another department to go and act in that position, while that person is getting his own salary, an acting salary, and the guy who left is getting a full salary from the institution.

“One guy is based in Bloemfontein but he is still on the payroll.”

In line with the labour relations policy, the union has demanded that the institution comply with the municipal staff regulations.

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.

“We, therefore, demand that the employer put in place a policy that will seek to protect vulnerable women at the workplace, including strong and sustainable enforcement measures.

“It is our belief that workers who are subjected to exploitation by their bosses, who earn more than twenty times the salary of ordinary municipal workers, cannot perform their duties and functions as expected of them. We want the exploitation of workers to stop, now.

“Without giving any details about his management style, we are convinced that the MM is not fit to run this institution of the people. We, therefore, demand his immediate resignation and that he be replaced with an acting manager who is suitably qualified to be a municipal manager.”

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.

“Employment equity is part of the ANC-led government’s priority principles to transform South Africa at the workplace. We have come to conclude that even some municipalities that are ANC-led still subscribe to the values of apartheid South Africa. Unfortunately, NDM is one of these institutions that sees the elevation of Africans as a threat rather than a progressive step in addressing the imbalances of the past.”

“The municipality only has three Africans since Cloete became the mayor of the ANC. He never pushed management to implement transformation. His excuse is that Africans don’t apply, forgetting that we do sit on the shortlisting panels … we see Africans apply.”

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.

“We kindly request members of staff to refrain from allegations that not only harm the rights of women, the rights of the senior manager referred to but also undermine the noble initiatives of protecting women in the workplace.

“If you are aware of any alleged case(s) of sexual harassment, please follow the procedure and report it.”

On the alleged conduct of the municipal manager, the response reads: “Council, as employer, has found Mr Adams competent after a competency assessment was done and then appointed him. Council will therefore decide on whether Mr Adams must resign or not, in which case he will have to be paid for the remainder of his contract of employment. Something that the municipality cannot afford at this stage.

“Mr Sydney Adams is suitably qualified for the position and will neither resign or be replaced.

“Sound labour relations is not a one-way street, we expect both the employer and employees to ensure that workplace order and workplace democracy remain key in daily interaction. Moreover, that respect for each other’s viewpoints is more crucial.

“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.

“We hereby challenge employees who have knowledge and responsibility on corrupt activities to come to the fore or report as per the policy framework.

“All correspondence must be addressed to the municipal manager.“

On transformation and employment equity, the NDM stated: “The employment equity plan of the Namakwa District Municipality is available for all to see.

“After approval of the reviewed employment equity plan, council has only advertised two positions thus far. For the municipal manager position, we received eleven applications of which two persons qualified, two coloured males. For the FMG intern, we received six applications of which five were shortlisted, three coloured males, one coloured female and one black female. Only three people were interviewed because two withdrew.

“The municipality has recruited an African woman and has never and will never regard Africans as a threat. If people from whichever background or creed apply for a job and they are meeting the requirements they will be employed without fear or favour.

“We cannot align ourselves with your notion of ‘fear of the elevation of Africans’, in fact you should take it upon yourselves as a representative(s) on the recruitment of staff to do introspection on your failures for not doing what you are supposed to do.

“We trust and pray for a functional relationship as well as respect for each other although we are adversaries.”

The MM bluntly refused to comment on the allegations of people remaining on the municipality’s payroll after leaving the institution.

Pictures: Supplied
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