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Wage increase for municipal workers may not reflect this month – SALGA warns

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Salga and the two unions representing local government employees finally reach agreement after months of negotiations

PICTURE: FILE

MUNICIPAL workers who scored a 3.5% salary increase that could rise to 4.5% in 2023 have been warned that while it has been backdated to July the wage hike may not be reflected this month.

The SA Local Government Association (Salga) signed a three-year salary and wage agreement with the SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) and the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu), following lengthy negotiations that started in March.

Salga, which is the employer body representing the country’s 257 municipalities, and the two unions agreed on an across-the-board increase of 3.5% backdated to July 1 this year as well as once-off cash payments, which will be R4 000 for employees earning R12 500 and below and R3 000 for those paid R12 501 and higher monthly.

In terms of the deal, the cash payments will be made on December 31 but there is a further grace period until March 31 next year.

The agreement includes municipal workers receiving increases based on the average consumer price index (CPI) as forecast by the SA Reserve Bank in 2022 and 2023.

In July the central bank’s CPI forecast was 4.2% in 2022 and 4.5% the following year.

However, Imatu cautioned its members not to expect the pay hikes this month after the deal was signed on Wednesday.

“Due to the agreement having been signed on September 15, 2021 it cannot be guaranteed that it will be implemented in the September 2021 salaries of employees.

“Many municipal payrolls close during the middle of the month, and it may not be possible for the pay offices to implement the agreement during September 2021,” the union said.

The agreement also makes provision for the local government minimum wage and benefits and conditions of service linked to salary increases to rise in all three years by the same percentage as the salary increase.

Medical aid subsidies and homeowners’ allowance will not increase in the first year but will be boosted by the same percentage as the salary increase in the second and third years of the agreement.

A separate agreement will concluded on the unions’ demands for retirement fund restructuring and maternity and paternity leave will be dealt with during the review of the sector’s main collective agreement.

An investigation will also be undertaken on the possible incorporation of Expanded Public Works and Community Work Programmes into the sector.

The agreement also has a withdrawal clause, through which any party can abandon the agreement in unforeseen circumstances that impact on municipalities’ financial sustainability and causes economic hardship.

But after invoking the withdrawal clause the parties will enter into fresh negotiations.

Municipalities can also apply for exemptions from the agreement but this process will be overhauled to be a more streamlined system with less legal formalities.

Salga welcomed the agreement although reaching the deal was no easy feat.

”The new collective agreement represents a win-win outcome for the negotiating parties and on the other hand, it gives municipalities who are in financial distress a lifeline and a breathing room,” the association said.

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