imatuHereinafter follows a comprehensive feedback report on the negotiations to settle the wage curve dispute.

The first round of settlement talks took place in Pretoria on 26 and 27 March 2013 with the assistance of the Facilitator, Mr Y Shaik. These negotiations yielded a Facilitator’s Proposal, essentially in the following terms:

  • That the present salary position of all employees be maintained pending negotiations on a new wage curve collective agreement.
  • That the parties forthwith commence negotiations on a new wage curve collective agreement to be concluded by 31 July 2013.
  • In return, all employees falling under the bargaining scope of the SALGBC (excluding Section 57 Senior Managers) receive a once off ex gratia payment equal to one month’s basic salary (essentially a 14th cheque).

The Facilitator’s Proposal was not binding on any party and each party was free to accept or reject the proposal. All parties were required to indicate their acceptance or non-acceptance of the Facilitator’s Proposal by 16 May 2013.

IMATU’s NEC resolved on 09 May 2013 to accept the proposal. IMATU indicated its acceptance of the proposal to the SALGBC on 16 May 2013. SALGA also responded on 16 May but indicated that it was not in a position to accept the proposal at that stage as its member Municipalities raised a number of issues and concerns that required further deliberation. The SALGBC was therefore requested to schedule another round of talks.

Thus the second round of negotiations to settle the wage curve dispute took place in Pretoria on 23 and 24 May 2013. The parties were locked in two days of intense discussions which proved extremely difficult, involving intensive debate and much frustration.

SALGA stated that the Facilitator’s Proposal did not find favour with Municipalities due to the significant cost implications thereof. In essence, according to SALGA, the Facilitator’s Proposal is far too expensive for Municipalities to implement and SALGA was mandated to seek ways of reducing the cost thereof by making a number of new proposals.

At first SALGA demanded some extreme concessions which essentially amounted to replacing the proposal of a 14th cheque with a fixed amount not exceeding R5 000.00 and the exclusion of a number of categories of Municipalities from the settlement process. These proposals were immediately rejected by IMATU. The issue remained in contention throughout the day as IMATU made it clear that an ex  gratia amount equal to one month’s salary (14th cheque), payable to all, was the minimum that our members would accept in exchange for settling the wage curve dispute.

No further progress could be made and the Facilitator requested the parties to consider the matter overnight and to resume the talks the next day.

On the second day, SALGA revised its position and framed the concessions it sought in the following manner:

  • That a 14th cheque be paid only up to a maximum of R10 000.00.
  • Municipalities who already implemented an 8, 48% increase on the wage curve in 2010 be excluded.
  • Municipalities who are prepared to implement the wage curve judgment be excluded.
  • Employees who were employed after 01 July 2010 be excluded.

IMATU immediately pointed out that SALGA’s concessions cannot be agreed to for a number of reasons:

Firstly, there could therefore be no talk of “watering down” the Facilitator’s Proposal and excluding thousands of our members from the proposal. IMATU repeated the position that an ex gratia payment equal to one month’s salary (14th cheque) payable to all, was the minimum that our members would accept in return for settling the wage curve dispute.

Secondly, the wage curve judgement clearly indicated that the 2010 salary scales should be adjusted by 8.48% and this means that the base for the increase of the scales in 2011 and 2012 was in fact incorrect. Therefore persons employed after 01 July 2010, were also employed on incorrect salary scales and there is therefore no justifiable basis for excluding these employees from the settlement proposal.

Thirdly, it is quite clear that neither SALGA nor their member Municipalities actually appreciate the full implications of a failure to settle the dispute. SALGA appears to be under the impression that it is only the Labour Court judgement that has to be implemented and this could not be further from the truth. It is, in fact, the whole of the wage curve collective agreement that has to be implemented and not just the judgement.

The wage curve collective agreement not only regulates the salary scales for Municipalities, it also sets out criteria for the grading of Municipalities. The grading process is still an outstanding issue that requires full implementation.

IMATU stated that SALGA has failed to consider the following issues:

  • The grading of all Municipalities has to be reviewed as the demarcation board failed to apply the criteria in the wage curve collective agreement correctly when it did the original categorisation. The demarcation board admitted as much during a meeting of the Executive Committee of the SALGBC in 2010.
  • A large number of Municipalities appealed their grading and the majority of these appeals were successful. The results of these appeals, which have been held over pending the resolution of the wage curve dispute, must still be implemented with effect from 2010.

Against this background, IMATU contended that SALGA is making a false calculation when it claims that it cannot implement the Facilitator’s Proposal on the grounds of affordability. The correct calculation here is to consider the cost of implementing the Facilitator’s Proposal versus implementing the Labour Court judgement as well as the cost of submitting all Municipalities to a re-grading process and implementing the grading appeal results with effect from 2010. That being the case, IMATU stated that it is confident that implementing the Facilitator’s Proposal would be a far more cost effective option for Municipalities.

It is IMATU’s considered view that SALGA has failed to properly advise the Municipalities of the full financial impact of implementing the wage curve agreement versus settling the matter in terms of the Facilitator’s Proposal.

IMATU also stated that SALGA’s arguments in support of its proposals have come far too late and it should have been made at the previous round of negotiations prior to the Facilitator’s Proposal being issued.

At this point it became clear that there was little prospect of getting IMATU to agree to SALGA’s proposals and it was decided to bring negotiations to a close. SALGA indicated that it would revert to its members with the points raised by IMATU in this round of negotiations and it would see whether there is any scope for further discussions.

IMATU further informed the Facilitator and the parties that we have written to the clerk of the Labour Appeal Court requesting that the matter be treated as urgent and that a court date be assigned to the case as soon as possible. All court papers have already been filed and the matter is ready for argument.

The Facilitator stated that he would not withdraw the Facilitator’s Proposal at this stage and that he would leave it open to SALGA to reconsider its position while IMATU pursues the matter in the Labour Appeal Court.

In conclusion therefore, it should be noted that the door to possible settlement has not been fully closed. IMATU’s focus at this stage, however, is to expedite the Labour Appeal Court case and bring the matter to finality as soon as possible. SALGA is now well aware what the minimum settlement is that IMATU would accept and it remains open to SALGA to initiate talks at any time prior to the Labour Appeal Court date, once it is ready to meet the demands for settlement as put forward by IMATU.