The main entrance of the Vhembe District Municipality's offices in Thohoyandou remained open on Monday, 13 March, with no-one to assist customers while the workers went on strike. Photo: Silas Nduvheni.
More than 1 600 workers at the Vhembe District Municipality (VDM) in Thohoyandou, of whom most are members of the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU), have downed their tools to take part in a go-slow strike for a salary hike since Monday, 6 March.
The workers refuse to return to work until their demands are met. They claim that the salaries of most of the senior employees (at level 3 and higher up) have been increased, while those of workers at level 4 and lower have stayed the same.
The secretary of SAMWU in the Vhembe District, Mr Khathu Mapholi, said that they had resolved not to report for duty at their respective departments but to gather at the council chambers every day. According to Mapholi, these workers have not had salary increases since 2017 and are also being neglected in terms of benefits such as pensions, car and housing allowances and medical aid schemes, while the senior officials’ benefits have been increased.
“We want them to increase the salaries of the workers from level 4 down to the lowest level too. We are also worried about the wasteful ways funds in the district are being spent. When they hire services providers, they allow them to charge abnormal fees and we want them to reverse it,” said Mapholi.
Ms Maria Mulovhedzi of Tshakhuma village, outside Thohoyandou, went to the VDM’s offices to purchase water on Tuesday (14 March) and was disappointed and worried about the strike. “This is a nightmare for us, because how are we going to get by without water?”
According to the VDM’s spokesperson, Mr Matodzi Ralushai, the meeting they had with the union’s representatives on Monday, 13 March, did not bear fruit as no agreement could be reached regarding a salary hike. “We don’t have enough money at this stage to increase the workers’ salaries. We will need R40 million to solve the worker’s salary grievances and benefits,” he said.
Ralushai said negations would be held with the employees at senior level (those whose salaries had been increased) to try and find possible ways to reverse the monies they had recently received from the increment.
News - Date: 16 March 2023