The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) has warned residents of possible water shortages ahead of an indefinite strike at Rand Water, starting on 13 May.
The union said they cannot guarantee running water to residents and industries in the Gauteng, North West, Free State and Mpumalanga provinces.
“What we can all do is pray for rain as that will be the only guaranteed source of water during the strike action,” Samwu said in a statement.
The union had decided in April to strike, citing the removal of incentive bonuses and changes to service conditions. The strike was initially suspended to allow for further engagements following proceedings at the Labour Court.
The “incentive bonuses” relate to a 14th cheque which workers had received in the past.
According to the union, seven days after the ruling of the Labour Court, the matter was heard at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), where a certificate of non-resolution was issued.
“This essentially is workers’ license to go on strike,” the union added.
Rand Water spokesperson Teboho Joala told eNCA the incentive bonus is not something that employees should be striking about as it is not part of the workers’ remuneration package but a discretionary bonus which they had been receiving for the last 17 years.
According to Joala, Rand Water had asked for a tariff increase of 5.8%, which they did not receive and this subsequently disrupted their entire financial year, leading to a R1.1 billion “hole” on the books.
Joala said they do not anticipate any disruptions to their daily operations as essential service employees will have to report for duty. The utility will be meeting with Samwu on Monday to ascertain which employees will be going on strike.
Hand forced to strike
Despite the incentive bonus being discretionary, the union is of the opinion that Rand Water is not willing to come to the table on its demands and now the “the only option is to go to the streets”.
The union said while they knew that the strike will affect residents directly, Rand Water has forced their hand through their “arrogance and changing the conditions of service of workers without any consultation”.
“Following the issuance of the strike certificate, the employer called Samwu leadership to a meeting wherein they tried to massage us to not going on a full-blown strike,” the statement said.
Workers are a blessing to every nation. Societies thrive on their sweat.
— Rand Water (@Rand_Water) May 1, 2021
“Rand Water has essentially pushed workers to the streets through their arrogance and changing the conditions of service of workers without any consultation,” said the union.
“We therefore urge our members and workers at Rand Water to prepare themselves to fight against the unilateral change of their conditions of employment.”