File picture: Alexas_Fotos / Pixabay
File picture: Alexas_Fotos / Pixabay

Government using pandemic to avoid honouring wage deal, says Sadtu

By Jehran Naidoo Time of article published Sep 21, 2020

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Durban - The South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) has accused the government of opportunistically using the Covid-19 pandemic to try and wriggle out of honouring a 2018 agreement to increase public sector wages.

The agreement stipulated that civil servants would get above-inflation wage increases for three consecutive years, but the government now says it cannot afford to uphold it.

“Government has failed to lead by example in respecting constitutional obligations,” Sadtu said in an affidavit submitted to the Labour Court.

“It does not come to court with clean hands in efforts to assert the Constitution. Despite its breaches, the government wants the court to assist it to avoid legal obligations that it freely and deliberately undertook in good faith.”

The teachers union slammed the government’s partial citing of the Covid-19 pandemic as a reason it was not able to stick to the wage agreement.

Cabinet was aware of prevailing economic conditions when it okayed the deal, Sadtu insisted.

“As a result, (the government) can only justify adjustment of the timelines within which the obligations may be performed, and not a complete excuse from performing the obligations,” it said.

Sadtu also rejected a suggestion by National Treasury director-general Dondo Mogajane that the government was coerced into signing the agreement.

In July Mogajane said public servants had benefited from decades of above-inflation salary increases outperforming those in the private sector and that the latest agreement was not sustainable, particularly as the government was now compelled by the health crisis to expend additional funds towards protecting vulnerable people.

But Sadtu said Mogajane was neither a member of Cabinet nor a participant in the bargaining process and could therefore not express views on decisions made by Cabinet.

The union said it was “staggeringly shocking” to suggest that Cabinet had been threatened into agreeing to the wage hikes.

“Cabinet made the offer freely and fully aware of its constitutional obligations,” Sadtu said.

The union said the government was required to file its replying affidavits at the Labour Court by September 28.

African News Agency/ANA

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