SAMWU Media Release, 13 March 2008

SAMWU announces national strike action

SAMWU’s National Executive Committee, which met on the 20-21 February 2008, deliberated on the mandate given to it by Central Executive Committee of October 2007, and resolved to embark on a national action against the ongoing attacks against workers, particularly SAMWU members.

The union resolved to campaign against the restructuring that is taking place within municipalities, which has far reaching implications on the delivery of services to the people. The NEC also emphasized our resolve to fight for the protection of workers rights and retention of municipal services from the jaws of market forces who are waiting at the door for privatization of services in order to make profits.

The attacks against our members have been planned in such a way that the aim is to get rid of workers who stand resolute against any form of crime, including fraud and corruption in the public office. SAMWU has found that these workers’ efforts are being responded to by dismissals and suspensions. Most of these dismissals and suspensions are a reflection of an ongoing political struggle to suppress workers from engaging in their own private political activities unrelated to their roles as municipal workers. All these are viewed as a means to liquidate workers and their organization from the public eye through aggressive management whose agenda is to advance atrocities on workers.

In many instances, such attacks continue regardless of their impact on the community. Whilst we have demonstrated our preparedness to find a solution, some of the councillors and management officials are so hardened that they care less about the people who are expecting service delivery from them. It is SAMWU’s belief that the councillors’ and managers’ attitudes are hardened because many of them have business interests in these private companies. In whose interests are the municipalities doing all this? Is this their mission to destroy the system which our democratic evolution has, in the first place, intended?

SAMWU has thus resolved to root out such elements whose interest is to destabilise municipalities by removing our members. The union’s demand is that all the dismissals which municipalities have imposed on our members must be reversed before the end of March 2008.

Thousands of workers are subjected to working under hazardous conditions exposing their life to danger to the extent that some are left permanently disabled/paralyzed, and where others lose their lives. Municipalities, as part of government, are obliged to uphold the laws of the country, including occupational health and safety laws. We have resolved that the situation has reached an intolerable level, and the NEC resolved to tackle employers head on over this. Therefore the role of the employer body, the SA Local Government Association (SALGA), in failing to ensure full compliance to the law by its member municipalities, is a worrying factor.

We further resolved to intensify our campaign against the transfer of municipal services away from local government, including primary health care, emergency services, and electricity. This includes the privatization of services like refuse collection, meter reading, street cleaning. As a result we will be embarking on a campaign demanding the immediate cessation of any further transfer and privatization of municipal services. Our demand includes that all privatised services must be re-municipalised in order to build the necessary capacity for better service. As a result municipalities must take necessary steps immediately to reverse any such privatisations.

SAMWU further decided to challenge and oppose the government’s move to bring about a single public service, since we believe that such a move will pose challenges to local government’s capacity to provide on its constitutional mandate to the communities. We strongly believe that local government remains the appropriate organ for deepening our democracy and bringing services closer to the people. As such, the proposed single public service remains a dream in the abstract.

Should municipalities and SALGA fail to respond positively to our demands, to the extent that a detailed agreement is concluded, then we will have no option but proceed with our planned action at the end of May. This action will be preceded by unprecedented workplace actions until such time SALGA has entered into a contract with us. Details of the workplace actions will be released soon.

For further comment, call Mthandeki Nhlapo, General Secretary on 072 5369756

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