CentralSASedibeng Water threatens to take action against boycotting employees
─── OLEBOGENG MOTSE 12:13 Thu, 21 Oct 2021
The financially distressed Sedibeng Water is threatening to take disciplinary action against boycotting employees, should they not return to work as soon as possible.
The waterboard’s cash flow problems are mounting with employees yet to receive their salaries this month, amidst intense pressure from suppliers and creditors.
The South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) has weighed in on the matter, telling OFM News that whilst they do acknowledge that the blame here falls squarely on the shoulders of the local municipalities that are heavily indebted to Sedibeng, it is now the employees who are bearing the brunt of the mess. Free State Samwu’s provincial secretary Tiisetso Mahlatsi explains the boycott is also due to the non-payment of their annual salary increments as per the recently concluded salary and wage agreement in the Amanzi Bargaining Council (ABC), which Sedibeng Water is a party to.
Mahlatsi says they had a fruitful meeting with the chairperson of the Sedibeng Waterboard on Wednesday and were notified that negotiations between the waterboard and government are ongoing. All parties are in agreement that the matter must be resolved “urgently and amicably”. However, following this seemingly amicable meeting, workers were served with notices that should they not return to work with immediate effect, they will face consequences.
Matjhabeng and Nala plunged into the throes of a water crisis
The problems all started when the waterboard’s creditors came to roost last week with the bulk of the pressure coming from Eskom, who ended up cutting electricity supply to Sedibeng Water’s facilities to just four hours a day following non-payment. Without electrical power for the vast majority of the day, access to water purifying chemicals, and now workers boycotting due to low cash flow, Sedibeng Water was forced to redirect the pressure on Matjhabeng and Nala Local Municipalities to make partial payments on their debt.
Matjhabeng’s debt is, according to a Sedibeng statement, sitting at over R4,4 billion and counting. The water board was so desperate to up their liquidity to pay off Eskom, that they were demanding R173 million from Matjhabeng as a matter of urgency.
The Free State municipality, which includes Welkom, Odendaalsrus, Ventersburg, Allanridge, and Hennenman, among others, did manage to make a R6 million payment on 18 October. Nala Local Municipality, on the other end, owes Sedibeng Water over R240 million.
Water interruptions were imposed from last week by Sedibeng Water, leaving those municipalities and its citizens in the throes of a water crisis. Now it seems the crisis may be averted. Goldfields Crime and Traffic Updates alleges that Sedibeng has started pumping water again. It is unknown what agreement was reached between itself and the aforementioned municipalities. This is a developing story.