PSA calls for GEMS to freeze membership fee hike
DURBAN - South African Trade union Public Servants Association (PSA) is demanding that the Government Employees Medical Scheme (GEMS) refrains from implementing membership fee increases for the 2021/22-financial year due to rising financial pressures faced by public servants.
PSA, which said it represented some 240 000 public-sector employees submitted that the government employees medical aid was not under any financial constraints and hence should be able to sustain itself financially without a fee increase in the coming financial year. “On the other hand, and in the absence of salary increases that were due in April 2020, the current financial climate does not enable public servants to shoulder any increase in medical-aid expenses, considering the rising costs of basic items such as food, electricity, and transport,” said the PSA.
In December, the South African government won a court case over public-sector wage increases that it has refused to pay citing lack of funds.
Trade unions had approached the courts to try to enforce a wage deal struck in 2018 that promised their members inflation-linked increments for three consecutive years.
The government honoured the deal for its first two years but did not pay the final year of increases, which were due to take effect in April last year. The government said it could not afford this pay increase during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the union, the COVID-19 pandemic has furthermore had a devastating effect on many public servants, especially workers in the health and safety and security sectors and other critical services that were on duty under trying circumstances and incurred additional expenses related to transport, childcare and other financial demands.
The PSA further called on the government to allow public servants some flexibility when choosing a medical-aid scheme. “The State should also ensure that all these employees receive the same employer subsidy, irrespective of the scheme they belong to. This will allow public servants to choose more affordable schemes to suit their financial situation.”
Going forward, the PSA said it would continue to canvas GEMS and the Council for Medical Schemes to ensure that no GEMS membership contribution increase was implemented until public servants were granted salary increases to allow them to absorb such expenses.
South Africa’s three biggest medical schemes recently published their 2021 pricing plans. The plans reflected the industry’s call to freeze prices or keep increases capped at low rates in the face of the country’s prevailing economic problems.
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