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A salary sacrifice by Cape Town City Council employees?

A fascinating aspect of the Cape Town municipal budget proposed for 2021-22 was highlighted by the Mayor when he declared it open for public comment.

He announced that the Council was asking the Government, in its negotiations with the South African Local Government Association (Salga) and the relevant bargaining council not to insist on another inflation-beating salary and wage increase for all municipal employees in the country.

Mayor Plato’s words are worth repeating:

He said:

“… there will be a zero percent cost of living increase in the salaries and wages provision in the 2021/2022 financial year. To achieve this, the City will petition the Local Government Bargaining Council to not award any salary increases for staff and councillors”.

Of course, one has to be careful in praising this or taking it at face value. For example, is a cost of living increase different from a salary increase, perhaps? Ratepayers will hope that there is no wriggle -room.

Should this promise turn out to be merely a vote-gathering tactic in advance of the next municipal elections, the backlash might be considerable. Mayor Plato has probably considered the possibility.

Indeed, he went out of his way to praise the beleaguered ratepayers of Cape Town for continuing to pay their rates and taxes, but then that too might be about electioneering.

However, if we assume the best, what we have here is the first real crack in the cosy arrangement between small municipalities and large ones that makes one size fits all when it comes to salaries — or rather one percent increase is one percent increase for all.

The root of this thinking is within Salga where all municipalities meet to negotiate their next year’s salary and wage increases. Here, note that in the municipal world an annual salary and wage increase is regarded as a human right along with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Such thinking does not and never has applied to those working in the private sector where pay is linked to the performance of the company.

In the past, whenever Salga negotiated an annual percentage increase for everyone, those happiest were those at the top end of the salary scale – such as the 13 multi-millionaire top managers running the City of Cape Town. If challenged, as the Cape Chamber has consistently done for decades, the answer would be a shrug and the excuse that nothing could be done because it was a national agreement enforced by law.

Mayor Plato has at last punctured that balloon of hot air. Cape Town ratepayers and everyone in the private sector most fervently hope so.

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