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Media Statement

Public Service Unions take their protests to National Treasury

Public service unions organised under DENOSA, NEHAWU, POPCRU, SAPU, PAWUSA, SAEPU, NUPSAW and SAMATU ,collectively representing  public service servants within the bargaining scope of the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) have once again jointly converged in unison at the Cape Town City Hall and Tshwane to deliver their dissatisfaction in the manner in which the so called ‘caring employer’ continues to treat its employees ,who are the most valuable assets in the public service.

On the 2st of February 2023 they submitted a memorandum against the background of having embarked on a mass industrial action in November 2022, wherein they submitted a memorandum of demands, following the collapse of the wage negotiations and the unilateral implementation of a 3% wage increment by government.

This clearly demonstrated to them the employer’s continuous disregard for the stipulated collective bargaining prescripts contained within the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 98, the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Labour Relations Act (LRA), the constitution of the PSCBC as a platform for social dialogue and the promotion of labour peace.

At best, the employer’s responses to their stated demands have not only been flimsy, but deliberately aimed at lessening the effectiveness, power and ability of this social dialogue insidiously. This is the greatest threat towards collective bargaining, and they cannot allow this wrong precedent to continue, and for the status quo to prevail. They remain resolute that they will not allow and agree to the reversal of workers’ hard-won gains and the undermining of collective bargaining which came through the blood and sweat of workers.

To date, these public service unions are talking about the livelihoods of over 1,2 million workers within the public service who are at the coalface of public service delivery. These workers continue to ensure that our communities receive the much-needed public services which include, among others healthcare, safety and security, education, social services and justice.

The current debacle in the public service must be understood in the context of the neoliberal austerity measures that are implemented by the African National Congress-led (ANC) government. When the Minister of Finance, Enoch Godongwana, presented the mid-term austerity budget of the sixth administration in Parliament in 2022, wherein he celebrated the Treasury’s apparent success in its attack on collective bargaining, proudly stating that “sibazamile”. This became a clear sign of their intent to erode standard collective bargaining processes at the bargaining council, which is a further clear indication of their ultimate intent of liquidating trade unionism in South Africa.

These unions are convinced that the government is hell-bent on reversing the gains that the workers have registered over the years, and as we are gathered here this government led by a bully being the National Treasury that has literally become a State within a State. Lately we have seen the trend by the National Treasury where they are dictating their own Economic trajectory amidst a crisis against workers and the poor.

The government has already pronounced on additional reversals of the collective bargaining resolutions and gains in the public service including:

•   Job cuts through “measures to reduce headcounts” through early retirement and natural attrition;

•   The abolishing of vacant funded posts;

•   The harmonisation and abolishment of allowances and benefits;

Workers share the hardships faced by the working class and the unemployed on a daily basis and are very conscious of rising unemployment, deepening poverty, staggering job losses, world-record inequality, increases in the cost of living and widespread corruption.

All these have become enslaved in our own our daily duties just in the name of keeping the State operations alive; YET the “caring employer” keeps turning a blind eye on our commitment to service. It has been three years that we have endured, hoping that we will win this battle in the boardroom. We have engaged this employer on many occasions about our state of affair, about the deteriorating conditions of service, about the need to compensate accordingly, about the negative effects of austerity measures, about respecting and protecting collective bargaining. The more we engage the more this employer turns hard on us and just ignores our plight. Now we are tired and have resolved to take our battle to the streets, hence we are gathered here.

It is now very clear that the government has since resolved to advance a neoliberal agenda which seeks to stifle economic growth, constraining the fiscal expansion and paralyzing State spending. Workers are the direct recipients of this atrocious policy pursuit as the public sector wage bill is becoming a focal point against other frivolously spending budget items. This has seen cuts in public spending, leading to massive reduction in all aspects of social and economic benefits to the people, in wages, retirement benefits and pensions, health and education and social welfare transfers.

The reduction in headcounts exercaebted by unfilled vacancies has produced worst ratios compared to international standards. For an example, in police services, the police-to-population ratios is 1: 410 whereas the United Nations’ recommended ratio is 1: 220; the nurse-to-patient ratio is 1:287 whereas the recommendation from the Word Health Organization (WHO) is 83 nurses per 10 000 population.

The unions called on the government to do away with the implementation of neoliberal macro-economic policies which have led to inequalities, poverty, unemployment, job losses, austerity, privatization and have destroyed the capacity of the state to deliver on education, health, policing, and social care.

They further demanded the following;

(a) A reversal of austerity measures that are targeted to the public sector as a whole.

(b) An end to attacks on Collective Bargaining and to protect PSCBC as an institution for social dialogue and a stop to disempowering it.

(c) We demand a real increment of 10% that will assist to retain the buying power of the public servants.

(e) We demand permanent employment of Reservists, Community Health Workers, Comm-Serves and Teacher Assistants.

(f)  We demand the filling of all vacant posts and the reversal of the subtle moratorium introduced by the State.

(g) We demand the insourcing of all outsourced services.

  • We demand the immediate implementation of the 2022 resolutions of the Public Service Summit.

They have collectively resolved to activate their strength through these pickets which took place both in Cape Town and Tshwane, and gave the employer seven working days to respond to their demands.

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