Saturday, May 01, 2010

After a week long general strike municipal workers in South Africa gained a victory as the association of municipalities has agreed to a standard job evaluation across the country. The victory was won because instead of trying to bargain individually the workers launched the general strike across the country, preventing the local authorities from picking them off one a group at a time. A lesson to be learned here ? Here's a report of what happened from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

Victory for South African Municipal workers
The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) has concluded a seven day general strike. The call to action was due to the employer’s refusal to implement a standard wage system. For seven days SAMWU members remained on the streets for fair wages while the union negotiations team bargained intensely with the South African local government association (SALGA).

“The success of the seven day national strike to ensure that all municipal workers are paid fairly is a great accomplishment,” said CUPE National President Paul Moist. South African municipalities had been able to exploit workers by paying below the correct wage level. As a result of the mass action SAMWU members now have an agreement on wage curves starting 1 July 2010.

Key issues that gave rise to the strike were: SALGA’s refusal to introduce a job evaluation system that will grade all jobs in the sector. The absence of this system allowed individual municipalities to arbitrarily grade jobs and assign their own salary to that job. This led to massive abuse and favouritism. Although SALGA was willing to introduce a job evaluation system it was only prepared to pay at half of the market rates for jobs such as nurses, plumbers, electricians, engineers and technicians. This underpayment of staff led to a loss of skills from the sector as workers seek better paid jobs elsewhere.

Following seven days of general strike action, SALGA conceded to the union’s demands. “CUPE is impressed with the action SAMWU members have taken to stand up for a fair wage system and to push SALGA to use their resources to fund public service delivery for the communities they serve,” added Moist.

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