NEWSFLASH! IMATU OPPOSED TO ANY TREASURY INTERFERENCE IN THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT WAGE INCREASE FOR 2020/21

18 June 2020

A special meeting of the SALGBC Central Council – Executive Committee was held yesterday. At this meeting, officials from National Treasury made a presentation to the SALGBC parties on the economic downturn on municipal finances as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

National Treasury stated that municipal finances have been hard hit by a reduction in revenue collection and it wanted the SALGBC parties to agree to give up wage increases for 2020/2021 and exempt all municipalities from paying the 6.25% wage increase.

IMATU, however, immediately launched into a detailed questioning of National Treasury’s figures and we proved conclusively that National Treasury’s presentation is based on exaggerations, baseless assumptions, claims not supported by facts and selective quoting from documents in order to build a case. The Treasury officials seemed to be caught off guard by IMATU’s sophisticated knowledge of municipal finances and they were completely flustered, unprepared and unable to answer IMATU’s questions. Ultimately giving confusing, senseless and disingenuous answers as an attempt to hide their embarrassment.

Most importantly, IMATU questioned whether municipal councillors are also being asked to forego their wage increases. The Treasury officials again had no answer, claiming that they have no control over councillor increases. Effectively, therefore, municipal employees are being asked to give up their increases but not municipal councillors.

After the National Treasury presentation was concluded, the SALGBC parties made the following decision:

Effectively, for now, this means that the salary and wage increase of 6.25%, effective from 1 July 2020, will proceed as stated in the SALGBC Circular.

However, in the event that National Treasury or SALGA make attempts to block the wage increase, IMATU will oppose such attempts by all means necessary. The wage increase is contained in a binding collective agreement and municipalities are compelled by law to adhere thereto.

Please note, however, that a very small number of individual municipalities have submitted exemption applications to the SALGBC to be exempted from paying the wage increase. IMATU is actively opposing such applications.

The National Office is preparing a more detailed circular on the National Treasury presentation and IMATU’s challenges thereto and will circulate the same in due course.

– END –

IMATU is the most progressive trade union representing our members in the local government sector. IMATU is a registered trade union striving for social transformation through sustainable local government.  See www.imatu.co.za for more information

LABOUR APPEAL COURT FINDS AGAINST MATUSA

NEWSFLASH! – LABOUR APPEAL COURT FINDS AGAINST MATUSA

The Labour appeal court handed down a judgement last week in the Matusa appeal against the payment of an agency fee.

As we all know all non IMATU and Samwu members are compelled to pay the monthly agency fee to the SALGBC over and above the normal union fees should they belong to another union.

Matusa held the view that their members are not compelled to pay the agency fee and referred the matter to the labour court. The Labour Court found against Matusa, with costs and confirmed the obligation to pay agency fees. Matusa appealed the matter. IMATU opposed the appeal and the labour appeal Court confirmed the labour court judgement, again with cost against Matusa.

The effect of the Labour Appeal court judgement basically confirms that all Matusa and or Demawusa members are compelled to pay the agency fee over and above the union fees. Employers are also compelled to deduct these fees from all such non-members of IMATU and Samwu and pay same to the SALGBC.

Kindly ensure that all members are informed of this victory and monitor compliance should employees still opt to join these minority unions.

VIVA IMATU!!!

The SALGBC has commissioned a message of support to all workers in the local government sector as well as citizens of the country

No Pay Cut for Municipal Employees; Lockdown Extended and Solidarity Fund Contributions : COVID-19

IMATU Newsflash

Last night President Ramaphosa announced that the national lockdown will be extended by a further two weeks. On Friday, 1 May 2020, we will be celebrating Worker’s Day. It will thus be symbolic and appropriate for all workers to hopefully return to work from 2 May 2020.

During his announcement, the President also indicated that he will take a pay cut and contribute that portion of his salary to the Solidarity Fund. The Fund was established by government as one of its tools to fight the devastating impact of the Coronavirus on the South African economy.

Shortly after the President’s announcement, a major political party as well as the City of Ekurhuleni indicated that its senior office bearers will also be taking pay cuts and contribute those funds to the Solidarity Fund. In the City of Ekurhuleni’s press release, the Executive Mayor, Cllr Mzwandile Masina, states that he will donate 33% of his salary to the Solidarity Fund. He then states that other Office Bearers and senior officials will also be donating a portion of their salaries to the Solidarity Fund. The Executive Mayor concludes by saying that officials (municipal employees) will also be requested to donate 5% of their salaries to the Solidarity Fund.

Unfortunately, it appears some stakeholders have misinterpreted the Executive Mayor’s announcement and this has caused widespread anxiety amongst local government employees. Some have interpreted Cllr Masina’s message as compelling employees to contribute a portion of their salaries to the Solidarity Fund. This view is not shared by IMATU.

The approach of Cllr Masina should be applauded. Every citizen and every organisation that can afford to contribute money to the Solidarity Fund should be encouraged to do so. Employees, however, can never be compelled to do so. Any attempt by any municipal employer to reduce the salaries of any employee, or any attempt to compel an employee to contribute to the Solidarity Fund would be unlawful and will be challenged in court by IMATU.

IMATU met with SALGA’s (the national employer’s organisation) representative on 8 April 2020 and we can categorically state that the issue of a pay cut for municipal employees was not raised or discussed at all. In fact, SALGA is extremely conscious of the vital role that local government employees are playing in fighting the Coronavirus. To this end the parties have already agreed that a compensatory model will be discussed in the bargaining council once the national lockdown is over.

Members can be rest assured that IMATU will leave no stone unturned in protecting the rights of our members.

Johan Koen

GENERAL SECRETARY

COVID – 19 (CORONAVIRUS) PANDEMIC

We refer to the abovementioned matter.

We want to take this opportunity to salute and thank our members that are at the forefront in fighting the COVID – 19 virus. Many IMATU members are involved in essential services that are required to keep the country and the economy afloat. IMATU members have heeded the call of our government to continue working, despite the dangers associated with the coronavirus. On all accounts essential services are running smoothly and uninterruptedly.      

At this stage we are not sure whether President Ramaphosa is going to extend the lockdown period, but irrespective of the decision of our government, the fight against COVID – 19 is far from over. The lockdown is an attempt by government to “flatten the curve” but it does not mean that the virus will be defeated by 17 April 2020. We will have to continue the fight against the virus well past this date.

The World Health Organisation referred to the pandemic as the biggest threat to humanity since the Second World War. As at 8 April 2020, there were 1 487 870 confirmed infections, with 88 630 deaths in 184 countries (source: John Hopkins University of Medicine). In South Africa we had 1 845 confirmed infections, with 18 deaths according to the same source. It was reported yesterday that more people in New York have died from the virus than did in 2001 with the attack on the World Trade Centre. We must bear in mind that our winter is set to start in the next month and this may also play a very negative role in the fight against the virus.

The aforesaid is testament to the fight that lies ahead for the country. It also emphasises the very important role that municipalities and our members are going to continue to play in the foreseeable future. IMATU is proud of our members and their commitment to play a leading and decisive role in continuing to deliver services to our communities.

Unfortunately, we have received a number of reports where municipalities have not complied with their obligations to ensure a healthy and safe working environment and/or are not providing employees with appropriate safety equipment. To this end, a meeting of the SALGBC party representatives was convened to discuss a number of pressing issues facing the sector (the meeting was held via video conferencing so as to ensure compliance with the lockdown regulations).

It was agreed that in terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1993 (OHSA) municipalities, as employers in the local government sector, are required to provide and maintain, as far as reasonably practicable, a working environment that is both safe and risk-free to the health of its employees. Municipalities must provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to those frontline essential service employees, which at minimum, are the following: 

  •  Face masks;
  •  Gloves;
  •  Sanitizers;
  •  Temperature tests for those employees who face direct exposure to individuals possibly affected by the virus; and
  •  Other related equipment.

The OHSA also imposes a duty on employers to:

  •  Take steps to eliminate or mitigate any hazard or potential hazard, before resorting to personal protective equipment;
  •  Provide information, instructions, training and supervision that may be necessary to ensure the health and safety of employees at work; and
  • Enforce such measures, as may be necessary, in the interests of health and safety.

Employees also have a duty to take care of their own health and obey the health and safety rules of the employer. If an employee becomes aware of a situation that is unsafe or unhealthy, he or she must report such a situation to his or her immediate supervisor as soon as possible.

The parties have agreed that those municipalities who are not complying with these OHSA obligations must be identified and every effort must be made to report them to the appropriate authorities for non – compliance. This is to ensure that applicable and timeous remedies are put in place to ensure compliance, which may include holding such municipalities accountable for the consequences, as provided for in law. In the same vein, where non – compliant municipalities require support to ensure compliance with their legal obligations, the parties have undertaken to do their utmost to provide assistance to affected municipalities.

Members must ensure that non-compliance with such health and safety requirements is reported to senior management, line management, your local shop steward and the Regional Office. If management does not take pro-active steps to rectify the matter, then the matter should be reported to the Department of Health and the Department of Labour. 

The parties, at the meeting of 8 April 2020, also acknowledged the danger faced by frontline employees fighting the disease. It was agreed that the following advice be given to structures at municipal level:

  • The Main Collective Agreement does not cater for a danger allowance;
  • If a municipality has a policy that regulates a danger allowance, then the issue must be managed in terms of the relevant municipal policy;
  • If there is no such policy at a particular municipality, then the senior management of the municipality and the local leadership of IMATU and SAMWU must discuss the matter. The parties must attempt to come to an amicable solution and attempt to identify the employees within the essential service designation who are indeed exposed to dangers or hazards. Parties must also try and identify the procedure to be applied to compensate such employees through the payment of a danger allowance; and
  • The municipality must keep a proper record or register of all employees that were on the frontline of danger or faced direct exposure to the disease.

The parties also agreed, in principle, to consider and negotiate a compensatory framework and matters incidental thereto, once the lockdown is over. This process will happen at a national level and will be guided by inter alia the following criteria:

  • Recognise those employees who were exposed directly to danger when working during the lockdown period. As an example, a nurse administering a swab during testing faces greater exposure to danger than an employee working remotely from home. The nurse is a category of employee who ought to receive some form of compensation;
  • Employees not exposed to danger of the disease and who stayed at home during the lockdown should not be eligible for any additional compensation; and
  • The form compensation.

Due to the lockdown it is not possible to finalise our IMATU mandate (the other parties to the SALGBC also need to obtain mandates). This will be done as soon as the lockdown is over.

We have also been advised that a number of municipalities have compelled employees to take compulsory annual leave during the lockdown period. We regard this as grossly unfair and this is totally unacceptable. We will also table this issue at the national bargaining council once the lockdown is over.   

We ask members to stay safe; keep your families safe; adhere to the lockdown regulations; continue to frequently wash your hands and use sanitizers. Please do not put your health or that of your family at risk.

Finally, those members of the Christian faith, we wish you a happy and joyful Easter.

GS CIRCULAR NO 6 OF 2020: COVID – 19 VIRUS (THE CORONA VIRUS)

We refer to the abovementioned matter.

Much has been written in the press over the past 2 months since the COVID – 19 virus was discovered in Wuhan, China in December 2019. As you are probably also aware, President Ramaphosa announced last night that the State is taking drastic measures in order to combat the spread of the virus in our country.  

Please take note that the writer hereof is not a medical expert, however, some facts are common cause in terms of information from the WHO. This document serves to put in place the reasonably practical measures that should be taken by a responsible employer. As an organisation, and as individuals, we need to take pro-active steps in trying to stop the spread of the virus.

First and foremost, you must not panic. A lot of panic has been created by way fake news on social media and other platforms. There is also a lot of mischief-making going around. For, example, the Department of Health in Gauteng indicated on Friday, 13 March 2020 that one of its circulars has been manipulated to cause panic and confusion. The Department issued a three – page circular, which was then manipulated into a two – pager, and this caused a lot of misinformation regarding the closure of schools. Another document was doing the rounds yesterday (Sunday 15 March 2020) that caused confusion in respect of the closure of schools. That circular, in fact, was issued by the government in Namibia and had nothing to do with the situation in South Africa. Even News24 reported last week that fake news stories are doing the rounds where their logo is being used and this created the impression that these were News24 articles, which they were not. Therefore, don’t listen to rumours. Make sure that you only consult reputable sources, such as the World Health Organisation’s website.

The virus is similar to any other flu – like virus. Symptoms can vary from mild flu – like to pneumonia – like symptoms. Information from the WHO, and two of the medical schemes locally, indicate that there is a category of persons at high risk. The people at risk are those with low immune systems. For example, the elderly (people older than 70), people who suffer from TB or are HIV positive, people with lung problems, and diabetics come to mind. For the majority of people that contract the virus, they will have mild flu-like symptoms. The recovery rate at the epicentre in China is already at 97%. It must also be noted that the countries where the virus is at its worst (China, Northern Italy and Iran, were (are) in the middle of winter and temperatures there are much lower than in South Africa currently. Our warmer climate, for the time being, will hopefully assist in fighting the spread of the virus.

We are a service delivery driven organisation and we must continue to be available for our members. It is therefore not practical to close our doors and work from home. Having said that, however, we must take pro-active steps to stop the spread of the virus.

Any member of staff who wants to self-isolate (or quarantine) will be required to take annual leave or unpaid leave. If you fall ill, as in the case of any other illness, you will be required to submit a doctor’s note to the employer. 

Hereinafter follow practical arrangements that Regions should implement with immediate effect:

1.           Avoid physical contact at all costs. This means not touching, greeting by handshake or hugging another person. Try to communicate over the internal phone systems of the organisation, where possible;

2.           Although it is unsociable, try to avoid as much physical contact with persons in the office and in your home life;

3.           Try to keep a distance of around 2 metres from another person when talking to him/her. For example, if you are consulting with a member, make sure that he/she sits across the table from you;

4.           Disinfect all the time. Wash your hands as much as possible. Use a disinfectant soap;

5.           If you have to consult with a member, then don’t use your office or an office with confined spaces. Use a boardroom or any other suitable larger office;

6.           Make sure you frequently clean tools of the trade. This includes your cellular phone, tablets, your laptop screen and/or your telephone handsets. Conference tables and toilets must also be frequently disinfected;

7.           Where practical, all office doors must be left open (this excludes the front door and bathroom doors!). This will prevent you from having to touch a door when opening or closing the door;

8.           Please use throw – away (disposable) paper towels to dry your hands after washing them. In addition, also use throw – away towels to open, close, lock and unlock toilet doors and bathroom doors;

9.           All non – essential meetings should be postponed until at least 17 April 2020. If issues can be resolved by way of electronic channels, then you must proceed to do so. Please discuss with your Regional Chairperson what practical arrangements can be taken to give effect to this – for example, reports can be sent out on email with recommendations and members of your committees can be given time to respond thereto;

10.         Where members are being represented, the person representing the member, be it in arbitrations, disciplinary enquiries and grievances, etc., must take a common sense approach. If cases can be postponed, this must be done forthwith (until at least 17 April 2020). Where a postponement of a matter is not possible, you must ensure that the venue is not constricted in terms of size (remember the other parties in an enquiry are equally concerned about their health and wellbeing);

11.         Where members apply for loans, they must be requested to use their own pens, and if they don’t have a pen, we must give the member a pen to fill in the documentation. Thereafter the pen must either be given to the member or it must be thrown away. This will also apply to other operation issues such as membership application forms, etc.;

12.         Regional Managers are authorised to implement measures to ensure that staff using public transport are transported as safely as is reasonably possible. This may include a car pool arrangement or other methods (i.e. a member of staff with a car be requested to pick up and drop off staff, where possible). These arrangements will apply until 17 April 2020. If there are costs to be incurred to safeguard our employees traveling by means of public transport, then these costs must be incurred, but within reasonable parameters. If you are unsure about this issue, then please contact the General Secretary for guidance;

13.         Regional Managers must establish whether there is sufficient capacity amongst the cleaning staff to continuously clean and disinfect workspaces and toilets. If you need additional assistance – especially in our larger offices, you are hereby authorised, in consultation with the DGS: Operations, to appoint a contract worker for one (1) month, with any further extension reviewable at the end of the month contract; 

14.         Boost your immune system as much as you can. Make sure that you speak to your doctor or pharmacist to take the correct amount and kind of vitamins;

15.         Be vigilant in your personal life. If possible, avoid crowds and confined spaces for the time-being. This includes shopping malls, small gyms, movie theatres, pubs, etc. Follow the advice of the WHO and other doctors with regards to coughing, sneezing and washing your hands;

16.         If you start having flu – like systems, then consult a doctor immediately;

17.         Do not fall prey to opportunistic criminality (at present it is being reported that criminals are posing as Netcare officials purporting to be conducting door-to-door testing, and thereby gaining access to your home and belongings); and

18.         The National Institute for Communicable Diseases also has a reputable website (www.ncid.ac.za) with plenty of information. Please use this resource as a means of educating yourselves and your families.                

Regional Managers must frequently communicate with staff so that staff are kept abreast of developments. We will monitor the situation on a day – to – day basis. If more drastic steps are required, we will implement those as and when required.

Regional Managers must also ensure that municipalities take pro-active steps to ensure that our members are not placed at risk. Please advise branch committees to immediately discuss such measures with municipal employers.

Please don’t panic and apply common sense.

If you have any questions in this regard, please contact the writer hereof, the DGS: Operations, or the HR Manager. 

Johan Koen

GENERAL SECRETARY

FIRE SERVICES: DEADLOCK ON ALLOWANCES AND OVERTIME LABOUR COURT JUDGEMENT

The Labour Court has handed down judgement on Tuesday, 03 March 2020.

The Judge Found the following:

1. The Samwu actions to not work the shifts as per the Collective Agreement constituted an unprotected strike. The Court interdicted Samwu members from participating in such refusal.

2. The Fire and Rescue Services Collective Agreement is valid and binding, until a new agreement is concluded.

3. The Counter claim of Samwu seeking to declare all 24 hours of shifts as working hours is dismissed with cost by the court.

IMATU always advised that refusal to work the shifts would constitute an unprotected strike. IMATU further advised that the remedy to address the unhappiness with the shift allowances was Interest Arbitration. The Court now confirmed that position.

IMATU will now file a new demand for negotiation in consultation with our members. The demand will cater for all the Fire Service members IMATU will thereafter refer the issue to Interest Arbitration. In such proceedings the Arbitrator will rule on a fair outcome in terms of all the listed issues, including the allowances percentage.

We will keep members updated as the process evolves.

E. BRUWER REGIONAL MANAGER IMATU WESTERN CAPE/ CAPE METRO

IMATU CONDEMNS WASTED COSTS IN THE CITY OF CAPE TOWN

The Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (IMATU), representing approximately 107 000 members countrywide, and in excess of 14 000 members in the City of Cape Town, wholeheartedly supports the view of the Auditor General, as quoted in an article by the Cape Argus on 4 February 2020, wherein it was stated that “The AG also flagged the appointment of law firms representing the City.  The report said the approval to procure legal services was granted to the legal department by means of a council system of delegations that was not in line with the regulations“.

Notwithstanding a formal collective agreement relating to internal disciplinary matters which excludes the appointment of external legal representation, except in very limited and specific cases, the City persists in appointing external legal practitioners to prosecute its staff, and to preside over these hearings.  IMATU has been successful in an arbitration wherein it was ruled that the employer (the City) was not permitted to utilise the services of external legal practitioners.  Albeit that the City has taken this award on review, it persists in spending ratepayers’ money on the appointment of external legal practitioners across the board.  These hearings are extended over long periods which result in huge legal bills for the City.  This takes place despite the fact that the City has its own Legal Department which comprises many qualified and expert legal employees, and similarly, the City has specialised labour relations and human resources departments with a more than adequate staff complement.  These very employees, however, are simply not utilised for internal disciplinary matters despite being fully equipped to do so.  

“These actions by the City result in wasted costs, to the detriment of the ratepayer, and need to be ceased with immediate effect”, stated Etienne Bruwer, IMATU’s Regional Manager in the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape Region.

IMATU CORRECTS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SERVICES AND STAR NEWSPAPER ON ERRONEOUS AND POOR REPORTING

The Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (IMATU) has noted with concern, the contents of an article published in The Star newspaper on 22 January 2020 entitled “End of fee deductions challenged”.

In the article it is claimed that several unions, including IMATU, have been granted certain organisational rights in respect of the deduction of membership subscriptions for civil servants.  According to Prof Richard Levin, “The National Treasury has also been requested to terminate the stop order facilities that have been unduly extended to the above-mentioned unions”.  Prof Levin is the Director-General in the Public Service and Administration Department.

IMATU refutes this statement categorically.  According to its President, Mr Keith Swanepoel: “IMATU is one of the only 2 recognised trade unions in the local government sector, and operates under the auspices of the SALGBC (South African Local Government Bargaining Council).  We do not, and have never, seek organisational rights in respect of the public sector (provincial and national government)”.

Swanepoel called on the Director-General to withdraw the remarks made concerning IMATU which reportedly contained in correspondence by the Director-General dated 20 December 2019.

The Star newspaper is also urged to properly check the facts of each matter it chooses to report on, prior to the publication of information which is not factually correct in all instances, said Swanepoel: “IMATU is always available and willing to provide the media with correct facts and information, prior to such articles being published”, concluded Swanepoel.