The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) convened its 7th plenary session of National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the 11th National Congress on the 30th – 31st March 2021. The NEC considered the international context, national political and socio-economic situations including organisational assessment in particular matters affecting our members and the working class in general.
The meeting took place while the world is still battling with the coronavirus which has so far infected more than 128 million people across the world including the loss of life of more than 2.8 million people. Apart from the loss of life, the pandemic has caused unprecedented damages to economies across the world coupled with an unacceptable number of job losses, and loss of personal income of millions of our people. World unemployment has increased by 33 million to 220 million while working hours lost in 2020 is equivalent to 255 million jobs. In South Africa, the formal sector shed more than 594,000 jobs between December 2019 and December last year.
While the virus continues to claim lives on a daily basis the vaccination programmes of countries especially those in Africa continue to move at a snail pace because of scarcity of vaccines. This is due to the refusal by rich countries and Big Pharma to share vaccines including patent protections which play a huge role in access to vaccines which are critical in the fight to end COVID-19 transmissions. NEHAWU supports the WFTU campaign for “free health for all, for a safe and free vaccine for all against covid19; to build large, modern and public hospitals with all necessary human and technological equipment”.
The NEC meeting commended the effort by the South African government to build domestic vaccine productive capacity and also noted that the South African government, working with the Indian government and others as well as interest groups internationally, is placing a motion that calls for the waiver of the relevant clauses of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreement on the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights or TRIPS.
The NEC reaffirmed the decision of the Central Executive Committee (CEC) that was held last year December directing the union not to deploy resources in campaigning for the African National Congress (ANC) in the forthcoming local government elections. Furthermore, the NEC clarified that this is not a boycott of the elections but the union shall not do the traditional form of support. NEHAWU’s continuing supports for the ANC is a policy matter that only our national congress can review and affirm. The national union has decided to concentrate and to deploy its limited resources on servicing its members who are currently facing a frontal attack from the government which elected to renege on a binding collective bargaining agreement. Moreover, we will need every cent at our disposal to fight the onslaught on our members and workers who have been subjected to a life of poverty by the non-implementation of clause 3.3 of PSCBC Resolution 1 of 2018.
The meeting also welcomed the ANC NEC meeting’s decision that all ANC members who are charged with corruption or serious crimes should step aside within 30 days, and if they fail, they will be suspended from the organisation. We support this decision as part of our broader campaign against corruption and the plundering of state resources. Corruption is counter-revolutionary and those that defend the state-capture corruption networks are counter-revolutionaries and mercenaries. It is therefore the duty of the entire democratic movement to defeat corruption wherever it rears its ugly head and those found to be involved in corruption must be punished regardless of positions they hold in both the movement, in government and in society. We hope that this decision will be fully implemented in order to help to address the integrity crises currently faced by the ANC. However, we are highly disappointed by the ANC NEC silence on the onslaught to public sector workers who have not received a salary increase since the 1st April 2021. More so because the ANC government has itself admitted that over R500 billion have been looted and wasted over the past decade, not least through the connections of its own deployees in the state and its organs, which the government is now putting exclusively on the shoulders of the coalface public servants.
The national union is looking forward to the centenary of the South African Communist Party (SACP) and will actively participate in all the activities of the Centenary Programme, working with COSATU to support the activities and ensuring that our members and the working class in general experience a fitting tribute to our reliable vanguard party.
We reject the presentation of an austerity budget by Minister Tito Mboweni as that budget is a continuation of the onslaught on collective bargaining by our democratically elected government including the lack of decisiveness by the President of the country, Cyril Ramaphosa, in directing the Minister of Finance to pay the salary increases. Apart from refusing to pay salary increases for the next three years, Treasury supported by the President is also considering reversing more gains of workers including a moratorium on filling posts, the abolition of benefits and allowances like rural allowances and the revision of pay-progression rules and the Occupation-Specific Dispensations (OSD).
NEHAWU will intensify the fight for the implementation of Resolution 1 of 2018 including forcing government to accede to our demands for the next bargaining cycle at the PSCBC. This is a do or die battle for us as a loss will mean the destruction of collective bargaining and possibly the death of trade unions. As NEHAWU, we have filed leave to appeal application at the Constitutional Court on the 26th January 2021 and awaiting for the apex court to rule on the application.
Government must be ready for a mother of all fights as we fight to defend our members in particular and workers in general. Furthermore, we condemn the delaying tactics of the employer at the PSCBC during the negotiations for the next bargaining cycle. Instead of presenting a counter offer to our demands the government elected to turn the salary negotiations into a clarity seeking questions session thus delaying the process of negotiations. We want to make it crystal clear that we will not tolerate any silly attempts to derail the process as a tactic to avert acceding to the demands of workers. In this regard, the national executive committee directed all provinces to convene membership meetings in the public service to report back and receive a mandate on a way forward including preparing for a mass action.
As NEHAWU, we remain steadfast in our demands for the following:
- Single Term Agreement
- Across the board increment of CPI plus 3%
- Abolishment of Salary Level 1 to 3 and demand that Salary Level 4 must be the entry level. In the event that the abolishment is not doable parties must look at securing more benefits for members in Levels 1 to 3.
- Full time employment of all Community Health Workers and contract /fixed term workers who have been in the public service for more than 12 months.
- Expeditious review of GEMS resolution as per pervious agreement to ensure that the initial objectives of the resolution of providing affordable medical scheme for public servants which must also include the review of the governance structure of GEMS.
- Full implementation of the Housing Scheme that will allow workers to access affordable housing.
- A resolution that will see GEPF creating a portfolio and investment in the housing scheme to help public servants getting access to decent and affordable housing, instead of bailing out state entities. Further that there should be a change in the GEPF Act to direct the administration of the facility through GPAA.
- A bailout payment to public servants that will seek to provide a financial relief to respond to financial woes that members are subjected to as a result of none increment of salaries and economic contractions. The GEPF legislation must be reviewed in such a way that beneficiaries and members are not prejudiced when supposed to benefit.
- Long outstanding resolution dating back from 2012 that directly benefit members must form part of the current demands and must be implemented in 2021.
- We demand that we conclude a collective agreement that will regulate the conditions of service of employees as and when we are faced with a disasters as a country such as the pandemic.
The NEC rejected the programme of budget cuts by National Treasury in the Post Schooling Education and Training (PSET) sector. In 2020, Treasury allocated about R116.9 billion towards the funding of the entire PSET sector. However, almost R10 billions of this amount was diverted to finance the sector’s response to the Coronavirus. Yet from our recent site-visits in TVET and CET institutions, in the overall our teams have found no tangible evidence of such spending on non-pharmaceutical prevention measures. In this regard, we condemn any cuts in the budget of the PSET sector as they seek to minimise access to post schooling institutions especially for students from working class background. We support the struggle by students for more funding and the writing off of student’s debts. Furthermore, we call on government to immediately address the current shortfalls, abolish the student-debt and ensure that NSFAS funding, institutional subsidies and the enrolment plans are aligned with the growth rate of the post-schooling student population.
The National Office Bearers (NOB’s) undertook a fact-finding mission to assess the state of readiness of post schooling institutions for the reopening for the 2021 academic calendar. The results of the visits to the colleges reveal that majority of the colleges and universities are not ready to safely welcome back workers and students. Most institutions do not have Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), not enough space for social distancing, proper sanitation and functioning health and safety committee. The national union will release a full report on its mission report which will also be shared with the Minister of Higher Education and Training.
The NEC meeting condemned the recent attacks in Mozambique especially the raid by an Islamic State (ISIS)-linked armed group known as Al-Shabab in the town of Palma in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province which resulted in the killing and wounding an unknown number of civilians and causing thousands to flee. The senseless killings of innocent is totally unacceptable and we call on the South African Development Community (SADC) and the people of the region to act decisively in taking steps to protect the people from the brutality currently taking place there.
The NEC noted the political, economic and social crisis in Zimbabwe which has a negative impact on the working class and poor Zimbabwean families including the struggles of the trade unions in the country. In this regard, the national union took a decision to provide support to the Zimbabwean trade union movement working with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).
Furthermore, the NEC rejected the continued US aggression against Venezuela and their refusal to recognise the democratically elected government of President Nicholas Maduro. The illegal economic embargo on Cuba still remains in place while the communist island is busy with developing lifesaving vaccines that it plans to share with the world. As NEHAWU, we remain a union deeply committed to fighting against the blockade.
The NEC condemned dismissal of more than 300 nurses at the Queen Mamohato Memorial Hospital (QMMH) following a go-slow in February by the Lesotho Department of Health and the NETCARE Healthcare Group.
The national union will continue to pay a sufficient attention in conflicts taking place in Southern Africa and also to step up its organisational work on Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, DRC, Cameroon, Sudan, Mozambique and other countries deems necessary.
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 Visit NEHAWU website: www.nehawu.org.za