The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] notes with concern the misleading media statement issued by the Department of Public Service and Administration [DPSA] this afternoon on the implementation of the last leg of the 2018 public service wage agreement especially clause 3.3 of Resolution 1 of 2018.

The statement suggests that government cannot honour the agreement because of the following reasons:

·       The outbreak of the corona virus

·       Downgrading of South Africa’s credit rating to junk status by the credit rating agency Moody’s

·       And the recession 

We find this very disingenuous and insulting because it was on the 25thFebruary 2020 at a Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council [PSCBC] council meeting that government made a proposal to review the agreement. The case of the first person who tested positive with the corona virus was announced by the Minister of Health on the 5thMarch 2020 and the downgrade by Moody’s only took place on the 27thMarch 2020. Statistics SA announced on the 3rd March 2020 that the South African economy shrank by 1.4% in the fourth quarter of 2019. Government is grasping at straws in trying to explain their inability to pay workers what is due to them and in the process using blackmail to absolve itself. Every excuse that government is trying to use to justify reneging on the implementation of the agreement happened way after they made their intention to opt out of the agreement.

They go out of their way to appeal for the understanding and public sympathy against workers while on the other hand they continue to use workers as scapegoats for problems in the fiscus. Government does not deserve any public sympathy and must be exposed for trying to reverse the gains of workers and also for punishing workers for sins not of their making by not fully implementing binding agreements signed by both parties at the bargaining council.

The statement further misleads the public by saying that government is willing to pay and that they are still engaging with labour unions. This is untrue in that government made it unequivocally clear after they proposed that workers must fund the last leg of the increment through money allocated for performance related increase of workers and their capped leaves. This is like saying to workers, we can’t honour our commitment to give you an increase but if we are compelled we shall take something from you in order to give you as an increase. This, they say will be done by paying workers a once off non-pensionable gratuity that is equivalent to a day’s salary which in essence it is not an increase at all but an insult to workers. In this case, workers will remain on the same salary scales and they will be squeezed with no wage increases. As things stands, workers are faced with increases in electricity, food, transports, coronavirus pressures, etc.

This was rejected outright by all unions at the PSCBC and it was made clear that we shall no longer engage government on the matter because government had made it clear that they are reneging on the implementation of the current agreement. This misleading statement by government further insinuates that negotiations are currently taking place. As NEHAWU, we rejected any intention by government to mislead both workers and the public that negotiations are taking place as we have no reason to negotiate an agreement that was signed in 2018.

The national union will do everything in its power to defend its members including forcing government to honour the collective bargaining agreements. In this regard, we have declared a dispute with government over the non-implementation of the last leg of the current agreement. We have already started consulting our legal team on the correct legal recourse to follow on this matter. Subsequently, we will be mobilising our members for the mother of all fights against the onslaught by government. At this point, we want to remind government that this lockdown is not perpetual but will have an end and by that time, NEHAWU and its members and workers in general will emerge militant, strong, energized and inspired to pick up a real fight with government either to render the system unworkable or the state ungovernable.

In this regard, government must brace itself for a relentless war by our members in defence of their gains. We are more than ready to mobilise all our members and workers to shut down government indefinitely and render the system ungovernable. We hope that South Africans will not be misled by such lousy misleading statement but shall see this for what it is. It is time that government and Treasury in particular takes the blame for engaging on the public sector wage bill through Parliament and the media. We warned them that we are not in Parliament but they ignored us. It is only now they realise that collective bargaining platforms are important, yet they started by creating a problem of integrity and trust in the collective bargaining process.

Lastly, NEHAWU wants to remind the African National Congress [ANC] government that there are major and unprecedented consequences in not paying salary increases of ordinary workers and undermining collective bargaining, while implementing a budget that reduces allocations to the basic needs of the working class including housing, subsidy for public rail transport, health and education.

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