Johannesburg - The National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) expressed mixed reaction to Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan's Budget on Wednesday.

The trade union welcomed steps to establish the Budget Office, hoping it would ensure Parliament aligned fiscal policy with key national policies and responded to unemployment, inequality, and poverty.

However, Nehawu was disappointed the Treasury sought to reduce real expenditure growth by an average of 2.3 percent over the next three years.

“Since 2011, the minister has consistently claimed that the gains (public service) workers have made in the collective bargaining process... were crowding out spending on infrastructure and other services,” the union said in a statement.

“Thus, in this budget there is no correlation between the declining public service wage bill and increasing spending as previously claimed.”

The introduction of a new conditional grant to enable the health department to co-ordinate the National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme in the provinces was welcomed.

“We hope this intervention will accelerate implementation in the pilot districts and circumvent the misallocation of funds to other provincial services, as it happened in a number of provinces.”

Nehawu was concerned about the Treasury looking to release a discussion document on NHI funding without any certainty regarding the final policy framework, which the as yet unreleased NHI white paper was expected to detail.

“We find the implied proposition that the implementation of the NHI would largely be depended on growth in revenue rather problematic.”

The union was unhappy the Treasury had tabled proposals on retirement insurance reforms before engaging with the National Economic Development and Labour Council on the matter. - Sapa