The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] notes with anger the decision by government to continue to insult public servants by not paying what is due to them – which is the salary increase due on the 01st April 2020 as per the collective agreement signed in 2018 at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council [PSCBC].
Government continues to treat workers with disdain and insult them on a daily basis. In an article that appeared yesterday in the City Press newspaper both the Minister of Public Service and Administration, Senzo Mchunu and the Director-General of National Treasury, Dodo Mogajane are quoted as saying that “government will not implement a binding collective agreement”. In fact, both are insinuating that the biggest crisis in South Africa is the wage agreement or public servant wage bill because they claim that “honouring the wage agreement would plunge the state into a R37.8 billion debt” as if they are not party to the agreement. At this point, we want to ask them a question; were they drunk or on drugs when the agreement was signed because they suddenly behave as if they just woke up with the existing agreement in place as if government is not a signatory to the agreement. In fact, unions were demanding a single term agreement but government insisted on a three year agreement. It is for these reasons that we strongly believe that government is being insincere and trying to hide behind a thumb.
It is disappointing to hear these two gentlemen who for some time portrayed themselves to be champions against corruption but now they don’t mention that wasteful expenditure and corruption has plunged the state into serious debt. Salary increases and wage agreements are openly dealt with at the PSCBC in broad daily light where all parties are present under facilitated processes so it is disingenuous for government to claim to be unable to honour the last leg of the agreement which they had three years to plan for.
This is the same Minister who on the 31st March 2020 issued a statement assuring workers and the public that the Department of Public Service and Administration [DPSA] was going to honour the agreement on the 1st April 2020. However, that never took place as the Minister elected to use every excuse under the sun to justify misleading workers and the public including blaming the outbreak of the coronavirus for reneging on a binding agreement.
The agreement was signed in 2018 and was to run for three years, it can’t be workers fault that government failed to budget for the last leg of the agreement. It is demoralising that government finds it easy to use workers as scapegoats for problems in the fiscus and punish them for sins not of their making while those who waste resources and steal are running away scot-free.
It is now clear more than ever before that government does not care about public servants and this is demonstrated by the many shenanigans they have been using to renege on implementing the last leg of the agreement. What we find more unacceptable and disheartening is the fact that government claims it does not have money to honour the agreement, however, they have been splashing on legal fees as part of their mission to squash the agreement. The money spent on legal fees could have been used to pay the increase for workers and for government to prove that it respects collective agreements and it cares about workers.
Just last year, the Auditor General revealed that irregular expenditure had increased by over R10 billion to R62.60 billion from the R 52 billion reported in the 2017/2018 financial year. Moreover, in the latest report of the Auditor General (2018/19) none of the SOEs had clean audits and yet Treasury continues to divert scarce resources from the public service to give to Executives and Boards, with no positive results in sight. Billions in rands have been lost to corrupt activities over the years, these are funds that could have been utilised to pay public servants decent wages and also invest more on health, education and infrastructure development etc. Siphoning of state funds by corrupt tendencies has compromised the quality of service delivery and has left many poor communities without basic services like water and electricity.
While government is busy insulting workers and treating them with sheer disdain service delivery continues to takes place. However, workers are enraged and dejected by the perpetual insults by government. These workers include frontline workers who are serving as our first line of defence against COVID-19. These workers work under very difficult and unsafe conditions to ensure that the country and its people survive the outbreak of this ferocious virus. The non-payment of the salary increase has dampen workers spirits and morale is at an all-time low. This is made worse by the fact workers are not protected by being exposed to unsafe working conditions and they are losing their lives on a daily basis. Government has not been providing adequate Personal Protective Equipment [PPEs] and getting away with the non-compliance to the Occupational Health and Safety [OHS] Act.
Dejected and unprepared soldiers have never won any war. It is very unfair for government to expect these workers to serve selflessly while they are treated with scorn. The non-payment of the salary increase has put an extra financial burden on workers who are confronted by continuous rising prices of basic commodities. Government has not only subjected workers to a life of poverty but has also completely killed their morale. However, our members and workers continue to serve our country with diligence during the fight against COVID-19. The issue of the non-implementation of the salary increase remains a thorny issue that requires urgent solving right away. A caring government would have implemented the agreement to ensure that the morale of workers remains high during this torrid time.
As part of our national programme of action to protect and defend workers from coronavirus infection we will also intensify our mobilisation of members and workers to fight for what is rightfully theirs. The struggle for safe working conditions cannot be divorced from the struggle for decent wages. The fight for the implementation of PSCBC Resolution 1 of 2018 especially clause 3.3 is an integral part of our fight to protect workers from intransigent, lethargic and reckless employer who in the main is our government.
We have warned government that the lockdown will not last forever and that at some point it will come to an end and workers will take to the street to vent their anger at the way they have been treated by the same government they helped to put into power. Government has been beating the drum of war since February 2020 and NEHAWU is ready to respond in kind. On the 3rd September workers will withdraw their labour power to demonstrate their discontent if government does not resolve their immediate demands which include salary increase and better working conditions will lead to the complete withdrawal of their labour as from the 10th September 2020 until their demands are resolved favourable to themselves.
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