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They are heavily exploited Samwu wants permanent employment for EPWP workers



EPWP workers often perform the same functions as permanent municipal employees, but are paid much less.

The South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) said workers in the Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP) are heavily exploited.

Samwu recently announced its list of demands ahead of this year’s salary negotiations at the South African Local Bargaining Council (SALBC).

Most notably, the union wants a 15% or R 4 000 salary increase for municipal workers, as well as a sector minimum wage of R15 000 per month.

However, these amounts do not apply to EPWP workers who are compensated through monthly stipends and aren’t members of the SALBC.

READ MORE: ‘They’re working for transport and food’: Samwu wants 15% or R4 000 top-up

Same functions, different cheques

Speaking to The Citizen, Samwu National Media Officer, Papikie Mohale said EPWP workers were heavily exploited, adding that Samwu had plans to change the status quo.

“There is a standing item in the negotiations, wherein we’re demanding that EPWP workers should be permanently and directly employed by municipalities,” Mohale said.

“EPWP workers are heavily exploited. They work side by side with workers who are directly employed by municipalities, yet they are not getting the same salary or benefits,” he explained.

The EPWP was established and mandated by Cabinet to create jobs across four sectors, namely; infrastructure, Non-State, Environment and Culture, and Social sectors.

The programme uses labour-intensive methods which allow the hiring of a significant number of participants to perform specific functions.

Despite doing the same duties as permanent municipal workers, EPWP workers earn relatively low stipends and have no employee benefits.

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‘Cheap labour’

According to Samwu’s spokesperson, most municipalities no longer bothered to fill vacant posts but are instead increasingly turning to EPWP to cut costs.

“Municipalities have found a way wherein they get cheap labour, being EPWP workers. So they don’t fill those vacancies because they want to cut costs,” Mohale said.

He explained that this practice was a disservice to EPWP workers, who aren’t paid enough despite performing the same job as permanent municipal workers.

“At the end of the day, they are performing the same function. They get on the back of the same truck, go to the same [site], and work for the same hours – yet when it comes to remuneration, they are overlooked,” Mohale said.

“All those employees [EPWP] should not be exploited. They are workers, they should get the same benefits as other workers. This is based on the principle, equal work, equal pay,” he added.

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Permanent jobs for permanent functions

Mohale was also concerned about the lack of job security in the programme since EPWP workers are currently not employed on a permanent basis.

He pointed out that duties performed by EPWP workers such as waste removal, road marking and grass cutting were regular functions of municipalities requiring permanent labour.

“There is no need for any municipality to deliver those services through EPWP.

“We are convinced that these [EPWP] employees should be permanently and directly appointed by municipalities,” he said.

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