he National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] convened a Special National Executive Committee [NEC] meeting yesterday to discuss the outcomes of the conciliation that took place at the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council [PSCBC] on the implementation of PSCBC Resolution 1 of 2018 especially Clause 3.3.
According to the agreement, the government was supposed to pay an across the board adjustment to the cost of living by CPI plus 1% for salary level 1 – 7, CPI plus 0.5% for salary level 8 – 10 and CPI for salary level 11 -12. The national union declared a dispute on the 1st April 2020 after the employer reneged on implementing the last leg of the binding agreement signed in 2018. The matter was set down for conciliation which was convened from the 28th April 2020 to the 6th May 2020.
During conciliation government continued to propose that workers fund the last leg of the increment through money allocated for pay progression due to public servants and their capped leaves. This would mean that there will be no pay progression for the financial year 2020/21 for public service workers. Government requires R32 billion to fund the last leg of the agreement, however, currently they have R13 billions and R10 billions from what they claim to have comes from funds meant to fund workers’ pay progression. What this means is that government wants to only allocate only about R3 billion out of a commitment of R32 billion. For us, this represents a wage freeze and merely an exercise of reallocation within the same envelop.
As NEHAWU, we hold a strong view that government had no intention of honouring the agreement and they made their intentions clear when Treasury delivered the 2019/20 Budget. The Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni, unilaterally proclaimed that he was going to reverse the 2018 agreement in relation to its last leg of 2020/21. Clearly, this intention or agenda was set out long before the economy went into a technical recession [which took place in the fourth quarter 2019 and first quarter 2020] and the outbreak of the Coronavirus epidemic.
In fact, during the announcement of the budget Mr. Mboweni announced that Treasury would cut R37 billion in public service wages while at the PSCBC they say they need R32 billion to fully implement the salary increases. The fact that government presents two different amounts proves beyond reasonable doubt that there is no seamless in government’s work and spending. This further shows that government is deceitful and totally lying about not having funds to honour the agreement. It this for these reasons that we don’t trust government when it pleads poverty as a reason for not fully implementing the agreement. In this regard, we condemn the intention to reopen negotiations on an existing agreement by government and to render the PSCBC as a rubber stamp of government’s unilateral decisions.
We pleaded with government to source the rest of the funds for the salary increases from the R500 billion support package announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on the 21st April 2020. Majority of public servants are frontline workers in the healthcare sector and are critical in the fight against the outbreak of the coronavirus.
The non-payment of our members and workers salary increases has dampened their spirits and subjected them to a life of poverty considering that the cost of living has gone up, all basic commodities like food, medicine and transport costs have skyrocketed in recent times. The spread of the coronavirus and subsequent nation-wide lockdown has not made things easy as it has also placed other huge financial burdens on households and their meagre incomes.
The NEC deliberated extensively on the final presentation by the employer and it became clear that there is no value in continuing with the engagements on the proposal by government. In this regard, NEHAWU has taken a decision not to continue with conciliation as it has dismally failed to yield the desired results. The national union shall never allow any situation that seeks to reverse our members and workers hard won gains.
The fact that after 12 months all workers will revert back to their salary notches it’s even more despicable. It is important to note that this is happening on top of many outstanding agreements the employer has failed to implement which inter-alia, includes the implementation of Government Employee Housing Scheme.
After deliberations the Special NEC decided to go for arbitration which is a logical step to consider now because the conciliation has failed to compel the employer to honour the agreement as signed in 2018 and if the outcomes of this process are favourable to us and the employer is still exercising the delaying tactics then the national union shall take the matter to court for enforcement. If everything else fails, the national union shall use its labour power by embarking on indefinite action at an appropriate time taking into account the levels of the national lockdown. At this point, we want to categorically make it clear that NEHAWU shall do everything in its power including using all resources available at its disposal to ensure that government implements the agreement as is.
The disregard of signed agreements by government must be condemned with the contempt it deserves and must be nipped in the bud to stop a precedence of dishonouring binding collective bargaining agreements. The current agreement did not come easy and it is very disheartening that we find ourselves fighting for its full implementation at this age of our democracy under a democratic government which we participated in electing.
In this regard, we call on our members and workers to be ready for the battles ahead and a do or die fight for what is rightfully theirs and resist the onslaught by government which seeks to use workers as scapegoats for problems in the fiscus.
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