15 July 2002Strikes and Hikes
...the logic that seems 'un-logic'.
This country has had it's fair share of strikes, most people would agree. We also had our fair share of marches and toi-toi's to last us a long time into the future. But with the economy the way it is, a strike was looming at some stage or another. Here I'm talking strikes that affect every single household in the country directly and (very) visibly.
The joke last week shows the general attitude and the lack of strikes from certain 'bodies' have been questioned in the past specifically regarding the fuel price hikes. The council workers decided to go on strike two weeks ago. The South African Municipal Workers Union is at the bottom of this one. They're demanding a pay rise of R300 or 10% for all their members (whichever is the highest). SAMWU has 110 000 members which means that just in Johannesburg the city will have to increase it's salary bill by R230 million to accomodate the more than 50 000 municipal workers working for it.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with demonstrations, marches, toi-toi's or whatever people want to call their public display of dissatisfaction with what they believe in (or not). The way these things normally turn out is where most people put their foot down. A protest is a protest though history has shown that the average South African worker cannot keep with any agreement on anything that contains the word 'peaceful'. And here I include the previously disadvantaged (un-schooled) as well as those who claim to be intelligent (schooled) and responsible citizens.
Eight percent was offered to SAMWU members which they obviously thought was a slap in the face (I tend to agree). SAMWU mobilised their members after SALGA (South African Local Government Association) claimed the increase to be 'more than generous' and refused to re-negotiate the increase. SAMWU's argument is that the minimum wage for their members is pegged at R1 900 per month while Unisa (University of South Africa) researched the issue and set the minimum wage at R2 400 for anyone to make a living in this country. Local government however (in their infinte wisdom) held on to their minimum of R1 900 for the past three years. And to make matters worse, city managers earn up to twenty times more than most workers!
Salga's response that they wanted to offer only 7% but adjusted this to 8% on the advise of a mediator because they could only really afford 7%, smacks of outright disregard for the average worker. This we know and the whole issue is just confirmation of the general attitude of self-enrichment in government circles.
City streets were thrashed all over the country. Rubbish were 're-distributed' from rubbish bins to the streets. Workers threw and broke rubbish containers where ever they could with total disregard to motorists. Considering that some of these containers are made of enforced cement which were rolled off pavements into traffic, it's a wonder there were no motor accidents. Members go so worked up that police had to resort to shooting rubber bullets and teargas to disperse certain crowds. Then SAMWU still has the audacity to want to sue the police for injuring some of their marching members! The councils should sue SAMWU for the total disrespect and damage of council (and private) property (which we payed for)!
SAMWU must accept responsibility for their members. If and when the situation is called for to go on a general strike, members must stick to the agreed principals of the action. If truth be told, I think this is exactly what SAMWU had in mind and it would not surprise me if their officials were behind the violence that took place.
It is very strange though that this organisation decided on their actions only now. We all know that government is corrupt. We all know that most government organisations and departments are corrupt. We know that there is a gravy train. We can see the new Volvos, BMWs, Jaguars, Daimlers and Mercedes's on the roads. And we know that most of these are government officials with better perks than before the average increases in services we've had last month. We can see roads breaking apart, we can see the feeble show of care from city and government officials with services (and delivery of) dropping faster than the shuttly re-entering earths' atmosphere.
Bottom line, why don't we do something about this? Are we too relaxed, too scared, too hesitant about support or just plain lazy? Simple answer - we cannot agree on a common cause. Sad to say, but it's our own fault.