NEHAWU Statement In Response To The Ministrers of DPSA and Finance On The Public Service Wage Negotiations
Thursday October 06, 2022
The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] notes with disgust the unfortunate statement issued by desperate Ministers namely: the Acting Minister of the Department of Public Service and Administration Thulas Nxesi and Minister of Finance Enoch Godongwana on the current public service wage negotiations.
This statement is a blatant violation of Resolution 3 of 2017 of the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council [PSCBC] that guides the negotiation processes and in terms of which parties agreed to ensure negotiations only happens within the council and not outside. This statement calls into question the employer’s bona fides and as NEHAWU we view this conduct as part of the employer’s sustained offensive in undermining collective bargaining.
This statement was purportedly issued “to articulate accurate positions given some untruths” in the media, yet no such “untruths” are addressed in the statement itself. Instead, government unleashed a dirty propaganda to solicit public sympathy against its own employees and in this regard, it regurgitates the tired arguments to justify its attack on the public servants.
Government’s Economic Outlook
As NEHAWU, we have no choice but to publicly respond to some of these falsehoods in turn:
- In terms of what it calls the Government’s Economic Outlook, the employer claims that “the largest risk to the recovery in the public finances” is the deterioration in GDP growth. We reject this as a false logic. Contrary to the employer’s Neoliberal claims, in fact, it is the deterioration in GDP growth or the lack thereof which is the largest risk in the recovery of public finances. It is now almost ten years since the Treasury begun with reducing spending in order to contain the debt. From 2020 austerity measures actually intensified in contracting spending yet the public finances have not recovered whilst the public debt ballooned. Throughout these years we have consistently stated that austerity measures would choke the economy. End austerity!
- The employer counter-poses the legitimate demands of the public servants to the country’s “development agenda” and suggests that our demands are hell-bent on “sinking the country into a debt hole and unsustainable fiscal deficits.” We reject this as a false logic. Real improvements in wage levels enhance aggregate demand in the economy and thereby stimulate growth, which is the more sustainable way of addressing debt and deficits. Public servants must not be scapegoated for the so-called debt-burden. In 2019, addressing the Financial Time Summit in 2019 in London, President Cyril Ramaphosa himself admitted that state-capture and corruption in general cost the country more than R500 billion. Together with the unending bail-outs of mismanaged SOEs, this is what undermines the country’s development agenda and might even sink the country into a debt hole. End elite corruption!
- The employer claims that “the budgeting process is about the balancing act and making policy choices between competing spending priorities given the limited funds.” This condescending argument about “limited funds” is often made in responses to the legitimate demands of public servants or the poor in general. Yet, the Treasury chose to dishonour the Resolution 1 of 2018 in 2020 and unleashed sweeping budget cuts on vital public services, whilst in the same budget it granted the rich a corporate tax cut, which came to effect this year. There is not a question of a “balancing act”. Instead, it is a matter of a clear choice between class sides in the middle of economic crisis. End the class bias!
- We are surprised that the employers speaks of “the need for an increased headcount in frontline services” and further states that “the State capacity in Education, Police and Health has not been increasing in line with the growing population over the years”. In fact, this is the lived experience of the overworked public servants and the working class who depend on such public services. Actually, this is exactly the point that we were making at the Public Service Summit early this year. It is also our lived experience that whilst a blanket moratorium was imposed on vacant posts, national and provincial departments continued to increase allocations for the “goods and services”, to issue tender and use the private sector in the operation of the state. The employer is still refusing to review allocation to this channel of corruption. We reject the employer’s attempt to counter-pose increases in headcount to the legitimate demands of the public servants. The employer is disingenuous. The root cause of the above inflation wage increases over the past decade is the implementation of the Occupation Specific Dispensation, which was a scheme by government itself to stem the tide of the loss of expertise in the public service. This obviously lifted the baseline of the public service wage bill.
As labour, we presented our consolidated demands to the employer on the 03rd May 2022 which were informed by the fact that workers are struggling to keep up with the cost of living. The inflation rate has escalated, with price hikes of fuel, food and electricity amongst others.
The government responded to our demands with tabling a zero percent increment [0%] and rejected all other demands tabled. We had to fight at the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council [PSCBC] for the government to table a revised offer [current offer] which our members have outrightly rejected as it does not accede to their demands.
One of the issues we raised, was the fact that the government has stolen the buying power of workers over the past three years to the effect that workers have lost millions of rands in as far as their pension funds are concerned due to no increment in the salary baseline. Indeed, the government is not doing public servants a favour by offering them a mere 3% salary increment amidst skyrocketing cost of living and the worst the increment far less than CPI. The government argues that the offer to public servants is generous forgetting that these public servants have not had a salary increase for the past three years. It is public servants that are at the coalface of service delivery and should be accorded what is rightly due to them.
Since the beginning of public service wage negotiations, we have indicated to the employer that we won’t allow the down-varying of conditions of service of our members but rather improvement in the conditions of service. As such, we want to denounce the statement by DPSA & Treasury deliberately misleading the public claiming that the government has made a final offer at 7.5%, our correct understanding is that government has only made an offer of 3% and the claimed 4.5% which is the cash gratuity that workers have received since 2021 with no bearing to pension fund.
Lastly, we have declared a dispute on the current 3% offer by the employer including the non-pensionable gratuity of R1000 which lasts until March 2023. As such, a date for conciliation hearing and issuing of certificate to embark on industrial action will be communicated. In the meantime, we call on government to focus on improving the offer as a form of avoiding the disruption to service delivery and struggling economy instead of demonstrating arrogance and desperately pleading for public sympathy.
We wish to assure government that the misery, hunger, anxiety and anger dictated by government’s refusal to pay public servants what is deservingly due to them will be translated into fierce energy for the real fight against government if this onslaught directed to collective bargaining continues.
Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat Office
Zola Saphetha (General Secretary) at 082 558 5968;
December Mavuso (Deputy General Secretary) at 082 558 5969;
Lwazi Nkolonzi (NEHAWU National Spokesperson) at 081 558 2335 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org