The Pretoria Central Business District was the red ocean on Thursday, 23 April 2015 when seven COSATU-affiliated Public Service Unions (NEHAWU, SAMA, POPCRU, SADTU, DENOSA, SASAWU and PAWUSA) marched to the National Treasury and the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) to hand over a memorandum of demands. Wage negotiations between government and the unions have come to a standstill at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council. The union’s core demands which include, amongst others: a 10% salary adjustment and a R 1,500 housing allowance have not been met instead the employer has made it clear it cannot afford the union’s demands and promised a 5.8% and R1000 housing allowance. This angered the workers mandating their leaders to organise a march.
A peaceful march of approximately 15 000 to 20 000 workers led by leaders from the various unions marched from the old Putco bus depot to the national Treasury then DPSA. Cheerful marches marched in song and dance with their placards high in the air. The workers were also marching for 1,5% pay progression for educators to equalise it with all public servants, demand the finalization of all outstanding matters, six months paid maternity, 10 days paternity days etc.
Standing on top of a truck in the middle of the marchers, SADTU General-Secretary Mugwena Maluleke read out every demand from the memorandum as clear as possible followed by a roar of cheers from the crowd. In his conclusion he said: “this government needs to take full responsibility for the chaos that this country may find itself in and our people need to join us in putting pressure on the employer for the speedy resolution of this dispute so that we can all focus on delivering the much needed services to our communities.”
NEHAWU 1st Deputy President Michael Shingange reiterated the words of COSATU Gauteng boss Dumisani Dakile cautioning that the march was a warning shot. Labour gave government seven days to respond to their demands or face mass action, stay-aways and civil disobedience should the employer not revise its offer and that its demands are not implemented by end of April.
Deputy Director-General in the Treasury Ismail Momoniat and DPSA spokesman Brent Simons accepted the memorandums on behalf of the Ministers assuring that they will deliver to their destinations.
COSATU National Officers Bearers President Sdumo Dlamini and acting General-Secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali fired shots at government calling for the employer to take its members seriously. “All demand is a living wage for our members and we call for implementation of our demands,” Dlamini said. The government has the ability and capacity to offer hard working public servants the 10% demanded by the unions.
Dlamini also hit hard on those who thought COSATU would not survive without them. “I wish those who thought COSATU will die after them could witness as thousands of COSATU members are here with us today,” said Dlamini. He assured the seven unions that other COSATU affiliates organising in other sectors where fully behind them.
(Pictures published on front page and Gallery)