Mboweni says unions shouldn't act surprised about plans to trim public wage bill
Parliament - Finance Minister Tito Mboweni on Thursday said there had been discussions with organised labour about his plans to trim the public sector wage bill, and that stakeholders should thus not feign surprise.
"It is incorrect to say the discussions have not been happening, the communication might have been very poor. So I want to clarify that it is incorrect that there has been no conversations," Mboweni told a joint sitting of parliament's standing and select committees on finance and appropriations.
The minister described the talks as "multi-pronged" and said those involved included the governing ANC, the South African Communist Party and the Congress of Trade Unions of South Africa (Cosatu).
"There has been conversations at the level of the political leadership, the alliance level, Cosatu, the communist party, the ANC with myself and minister (of public service and administration) Senzo Mchunu making submissions, conversations involving minister Mchunu and myself... again unpublicised, there has been conversations at Nedlac on these issues and now, the minister has formally, according to process, submitted proposals to the public service co-ordinating bargaining council," he added.
"So this is not a surprise to anybody who is involved in the process, but naturally people are going to say [different] things publicly. But I have been involved in talks with the trade union movement, I know how these things start and I know how they end.
"Sometimes they end joyfully, other times they may not end so joyfully, but that is life."
Mboweni, who served as labour minister under Nelson Mandela, was interacting with MPs a day after he tabled his 2020 budget that announced cuts of R160.2 billion to the public sector wage bill over the next three years in a bid to curb government spending and debt.
Cosatu responded by calling the budget "provocative" and said it was ready to do battle to block the cuts.
"Workers will not play victims and the government can rest assured that they will demand and not beg for what is due to them. Cosatu remains battle-ready to push back against this public service cuts agenda," it said in a statement.
Mboweni's proposal will see consolidated spending on public service compensation contract by one percent in real terms over the medium term. It will also necessitate a review of the last leg of the existing three-year pay agreement with public servants.
African News Agency (ANA)