Public Service and Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu. File photo: ANA/Dimpho Maja
Public Service and Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu. File photo: ANA/Dimpho Maja

Public servants vs Government: Battle of wages still persists

By Loyiso Sidimba Time of article published May 11, 2020

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Johannesburg - The country’s 1.3 million public servants are using different tactics to force the government to honour the wage deal that could see their pay increase by billions of rand.

Unions affiliated to the biggest federation in South Africa, Cosatu, will be back at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) on Monday to continue with conciliation, which started on April 28 after a dispute was declared by workers’ representatives.

The six Cosatu affiliates - the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu), Police and Prison Civil Rights Union, the Democratic Nurses' Organisation of SA, SA Medical Association, SA Emergency Personnel Union and the Public and Allied Workers’ Union of SA - have asked for more time to consider the government’s revised offer which could see government employees at salary levels one to 12 receive salary increases of up to R13 billion.

According to Sadtu, the R13bn includes the proposed cash gratuity and allocation of capped leave of seven days to employees whose cumulative value will increase on an annual basis.

The government still insists that it would like to implement the 2018 agreement, which is in its final year, through a different implementation modality but blames fiscal constraints imposed by both unsustainable economic conditions and pressures created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In terms of the 2018 agreement, public servants were due to receive wage increases between 4.4% and 5.4% from April 1.

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), another Cosatu affiliate, has maintained its position that it has no mandate to review the implementation of the 2018 deal other than to pursue its execution as stated in the agreement.

Nehawu has warned that should the conciliation at the PSCBC not be in its favour, it will file for arbitration and is scheduled to hold its special national executive committee meeting next week.

“We believe that the dispute process must proceed to the next stage of arbitration as such the union will be consulting its structures for a way forward,” it said in a statement.

The country’s largest public sector union stated that it finds no value in continuing with engagements with the government as its proposal will effectively worsen public servants’ despicable situation and lead to salaries reverting back to their current pay after a year.

Another group of unions affiliated to the Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa) has resolved to take the government to the Labour Court for breach of contract of employment and to enforce the existing agreement.

However, the Fedusa affiliates - the Public Servants' Association (PSA), National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA, Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of SA, Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysersunie, SA Abet Educators' Union and the United National Public Service Association of SA and Allied Workers' Union - will have to wait until the national lockdown is over for their matter to be heard in court.

According to the PSA, the Labour Court has issued a directive on how its operations will continue under level 4 of the lockdown and informed its lawyers that there will be no case numbers allocated during the period unless it is for urgent applications.

The PSA described the situation as unfortunate but said they will have to wait for the reopening of the court and properly serve and file the wage dispute in terms of the court’s rules.

On Friday, Public Service and Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu described the salary increases matter as sensitive as it is now under the PSCBC dispute resolution process.

“We are in a situation where organised labour has declared a dispute and as such this matter is sub judice. It is at a stage where we are not at liberty to give details in terms of what is happening beyond saying the matter is sub judice as a result of the declaration of the dispute,” Mchunu claimed.

Political Bureau

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