SOUTH AFRICA - An ugly pensions battle lies ahead as two of the nation's largest municipal workers unions threatened strikes and legal action following the South African Local Government Association's (SALGA) move to dump municipal employees into a single newly-created fund.
Both the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) and the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (IMATU) have hit out at the creation of the Local Government Pension Fund, accusing SALGA of strong-arm tactics and in turn have threatened strikes and legal action.
IMATU general secretary Clive Dunston (pictured) said SALGA had ignored any bargaining or discussion process and merely forced the fund onto workers. He claimed SALGA had not even showed anyone details of the fund’s rules, including benefit structure or contribution rates.
Dunston said SALGA saw the fund as a way of saving money and simplifying the system through only having one administrator, but stressed they had gone about it in the wrong manner. “If [SALGA] went to people and said: ‘This is what we want to change, this is what we intend to do and we are genuinely trying to make things better’, maybe people would listen. But this is just jackboot tactics,” he said.
IMATU wrote a letter to SALGA CEO Makhosi Khoza that warned it would take legal action “the minute people are moved into your fund”.
Dunston described legal action as the first step, and added: “IMATU and SAMWU will work together because this is for the benefit of all workers, and if possible we will work with pension funds to stop SALGA’s unilateral action.”
SALGA said the unions were not necessarily opposed to the idea of creating a new fund, and wanted the process to be collectively negotiated.
But Dlamini stressed that route had been unsuccessfully followed for an extensive period.
The unions then declared a dispute which is currently before the Arbitrator for resolution, but Dlamini added: “This however does not take away the employer’s right to restructure the provision of services. The employer has a duty to ensure that benefits are conducive to attract and recruit competent employees,” said Dlamini.
“If the arbitrator rules in our favour on whether there is an obligation on our part to negotiate the matter with labour, then SALGA will have a final say. This is said notwithstanding the fact that it is incorrect to assume that SALGA has given away its rights to regulate core conditions of employment.”
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