The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] has noted with disappointment the continued intent by the Department of Public Service Administration [DPSA] to cut more than 30 000 jobs in the public service. This was announced by the Minister of Public Service and Administration during the budget vote that the department will open an opportunity for public servants who prefer to go on early retirement without penalties to do so.
This Voluntary Severance Package is meant to reduce the wage bill by more than R20 billion through elimination of 30 000 public servants between the age of 55-59 years. The elimination of the public servants is intended to be achieved in the period of 3 years as part of cost-cutting measures.
As NEHAWU, we oppose the introduction of Voluntary Severance Package and any retrenchments of workers as a result of the reconfiguration of government departments. The overall unemployment rate in South Africa is currently 27.6% and the youth aged 15–24 years are the most vulnerable in the South African labour market as the unemployment rate among this age group is currently seated at 55, 2% in the 1st quarter of 2019. The merging of departments should not contribute to further reduction of staffing levels but must help to enhance service delivery to our communities.
As NEHAWU, we recommend the government should strengthen the public service, and employ strategies that will enable government workers to be more effective and productive. The government should focus on eradicating wasteful, fruitless, and irregular expenditure that is taking place in the public sector. This will be more rewarding in that, significant amounts of billions will be saved without having to reduce service delivery, present employment, and future employment in the public sector.
The national union will ensure that there is proper engagement at the PSCBC on the government’s offer on the voluntary early retirement scheme and the natural attrition to ensure that the scarce and critical posts are not willy-nilly left unfilled especially those relating to scarce skills and critical posts. We will intensify our call for the filling of all funded vacant posts in defence of service delivery, our overworked members in particular and workers in general.
NEHAWU holds a strong view that the African National Congress [ANC] policy on building a capable developmental state continues to be undermined by Ministers who in their attempt to please international agencies continues to punch holes on the size of the public service when even concrete reality on the ground refutes these lies that South African public service is bloated. Our concrete appraisal points to the opposite of the assertion by both DPSA and treasury and we are proven to be correct by the Jobs summit held in October 2018 that compelled government to fill critical vacancies.
Our National Policy Conference held on the 26th – 29th June 2019 was very unequivocal in the posture that the national union must adopt in dealing with the 6th administration of our government. The policy conference directed NEHAWU to work hand in glove with the government if the government complements our work and confront it harshly should it deviate from implementing policies that do not favour workers and the poor people of our country.
The policy conference further underscored the importance of transforming the public service and use it as a backbone to advance a progressive developmental state. There is an urgent need to end outsourcing, magnetisation, and privatisation in the public service to ensure that the government is in charge of undertaking its core functions rather than to relegate them to the private sector. Moreover, continuous monitoring and evaluation and policy enforcement must be implemented to guard against wasteful, fruitless and unauthorised expenditure including clamping down on corrupt tendencies in both government departments and State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs).
Currently, our view is that we need to immediately start preparing for an all-out war against the government especially DPSA and treasury in relation to the continued threat to the job security of our members in particular and workers in general. The national union will immediately start a campaign to mobilise in the public service and society at large in preparation for a big fight against austerity measures and retrenchments by government.
On government employees housing scheme
The national union welcomes the decision to speed up the process of ensuring that more than 850 000 public servants are able to access their own homes through the Government Employees Housing Scheme [GEHS] driven scheme. NEHAWU will protect this huge achievement by workers because we strongly believe that owning a home brings dignity to an individual and his/her family. Moving forward we will at all material times ensure that we fight for our member’s dignity to be restored and their financial wellbeing improved.
We note the intention by the department to digitally transform the public service in line with the Fourth Industrial Revolution [4IR]. However, we remain concerned about the job security of our members as we have seen job losses recently due to mechanisation and automation. Technological advancement must not result in a job bloodbath but must be about doing things better and faster.
While we welcome the advantages associated with digitisation in relation to improved efficiency in the public service we, however, want to caution against reckless and exciting approach to 41R by our government without any consideration of the embedded national security dimensions of managing big data – whose technologies are monopolized by few western conglomerates that are also open to working with their own government’s intelligence apparatuses.
Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat Zola Saphetha [General Secretary] at 082 558 5968; December Mavuso [Deputy General Secretary] at 082 558 5969; Khaya Xaba [NEHAWU National Spokesperson] at 082 455 2500 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org