Salary increase for municipal workers in July – but unions also want Covid-19 danger pay

South African municipal workers and councillors will get a pay hike from 1 July 2020, in line with a national agreement reached by the South African Local Government Bargaining Council.

The negotiated wage increase, which was confirmed in March, is based on a calculation of CPI+1.25%, using the South African Reserve Bank’s forecasts, and amounts to a 6.25% increase.

This increase also applies to any linked benefits or condition of service, home owners allowance, and maximum medical aid contributions.

According to the bargaining council agreement, the minimum wage payable to municipal workers is now R8,329.70, from R7,839.21 before.

The agreement applies to approximately 255,000 municipal workers in the country, represented by the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU), and the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (IMATU).

Coronavirus and danger pay

Unions have spoken out against municipalities’ failure to adequately protect workers during the lockdown period, with SAMWU describing it as “leading municipal workers to the slaughterhouse”.

The group said that it has seen a sharp increase in the number of municipal workers testing positive for Covid-19 as a result of government failing to provide them with enough personal protective equipment.

“As a result of this global pandemic, frontline municipal workers are exposed to contracting the virus in the workplace. It is only fair that municipal workers are paid a risk allowance for the work that they have been doing and in continuation of delivery of services,” the union said.

In a circular published by the bargaining council in April, while it has no collective agreement in place for danger pay related to the coronavirus pandemic, it has committed – in principle – to considering and discussing a compensatory framework for employees once the lockdown is over.

This will depend on employers being able to identify employees who were directly exposed to danger while working during the lockdown period, namely, nurses coming in contact with possible carriers of the coronavrus, versus an employee working remotely from home.

“Employees not exposed to danger of the disease and who stayed home during lockdown should not receive compensation,” it said.

Donating increases

According to the union, SALGA has set up a Solidarity Fund for the local government sector.

This fund, separate from the national fund, will be created in all municipalities with contributions from councillors, management, residents and municipal workers.

Contributions to this fund could include:
  • a ‘leave encashment’, where employees could contribute 2 leave days’ worth of pay to the Municipal Solidarity Fund, or
  • a salary increase pledge, where councillors, management and municipal workers would pledge the salary increase which they are supposed to receive in favour of the Solidarity Fund for 3 months.

This call was echoed by the City of Cape Town this week (27 May) in tabling its budget for the year, where councillors were called to donate their 6.25% salary increase to the city’s fund to help aid those most affected by the lockdown.

However, SAMWU said that municipalities cannot be trusted with handling donations, and called on municipal workers – who are able – to rather voluntarily donate to the national Solidarity Fund instead.

Read: Government expands on workers who can claim for coronavirus financial relief

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Salary increase for municipal workers in July – but unions also want Covid-19 danger pay