Strike but don’t let taps run dry‚ pleads parliamentary committee

Strike but don’t let taps run dry‚ pleads parliamentary committee

The parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation said it recognised the “constitutional right of workers to strike”‚ but hoped this could be done without infringing “on the rights of South Africans to access to quality water”.

The committee said‚ in a statement on Tuesday night‚ that it had noted the “looming strike action by South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) within Rand Water that might impact negatively on the provision of water to areas in Gauteng and Mpumalanga”.

More than 11 million people face possible water shortages if the strike goes ahead as planned on Wednesday.

“This call does not suggest that the rights of the workers are secondary‚ but is made in recognition of the central role of Gauteng as a major economic hub within the continent and seat of government‚” the statement said.

The committee urged all urged all parties to return to the negotiating table as “it is in the interest of residents and the economy in general that the two parties find amicable and workable solutions that are sustainable”.

“What is important is to ensure that the strike action doesn’t impact negatively on the provision of water to highlighted areas‚” the committee concluded.

On Monday‚ the union gave 48 hours’ notice of the intention of some 4000 members of the union – involved in both the treatment and distribution of water – to strike.

“When taps run dry in Gauteng and Mpumalanga‚ members of the community should ask Rand Water board why it has not committed to giving workers increases that will have real gains for them‚” said Chumani Gqeke‚ the national collective bargaining officer for Samwu.

Negotiations collapsed as Samwu described the offer tabled by the water utility as insignificant.

“Our next appointment with Rand Water will be on the streets‚” Gqeke said.

“Given the behaviour of the employer we felt we would not continue with wage negotiations that are inherently characterised by dishonesty‚ arrogance and lack of commitment‚” he said.

Rand Water has offered a 6% increase.

Samwu is demanding a 10% increase for all of the lowest-paid workers at Rand Water; 9% for middle-income workers and 8% for supervisors.

It also wants a 12% incentive bonus and R2150 housing allowance across the board.

The water utility was quick to try and quell fears of water shortages.

Justice Mohale‚ its media relations manager‚ said there was an agreement with the union that‚ in the event of a strike‚ essential service staff would still report for duty.

Employees who worked in purification‚ water pump and scientific divisions would not down tools‚ he said.

“It is impossible that taps will be dry; the supply of water will not be interrupted.”

Mohale assured the company’s customers‚ including municipalities‚ industry‚ farms and mines‚ that there would be no interference in water supply.

Rand Water committed to reaching an amicable resolution to the current salary negotiations‚ Mohale said.

Gqeke‚ too‚ said the union remained committed to finding a solution “that will be in the interest of our members . our doors for negotiations will be open so long as the offer from Rand Water is enticing to our members”.

Meanwhile‚ while the Rand Water strike looks likely to go ahead‚ Samwu was on Wednesday expected to sign a wage offer of 7% tabled by the SA Local Government Association at the sector bargaining council.

But while the leadership of Samwu accepted the offer with no amendments‚ branches of the union in other regions apparently rejected it.

The leadership had to lobby to get all members on board and avert a strike‚ which could have crippled the ANC’s local government elections campaign ahead of the poll next year.

The agreement includes:

– A multiyear agreement effective from July 1 this year to June 30 2018;

– A 7% across-the-board salary increase in the first year of the agreement and CPI plus a percent for the remainder of the agreement; and

– Sector minimum wage of R6014.93 with effect from July 1.

Source: RDM News Wire.

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