Johannesburg – The country’s biggest public-sector union, Nehawu, wants the government to use part of the R500 billion stimulus package announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa for public servants’ salary increases.
Nehawu (National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union) announced on Tuesday that the conciliation at the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) between the government and some unions organising its 1.3 million workers has failed.
”Nehawu has taken a decision not to continue with conciliation as it has dismally failed to yield the desired results,” the Cosatu affiliate stated.
According to Nehawu, the government needs R32bn to increase the salaries of its 1.3 million employees by between 4.4% and 5.4% but can only make available R3bn.
The union has now pleaded with the government to source the remaining funds from the R500bn support package announced by Ramaphosa last month.
”The majority of public servants are frontline workers in the healthcare sector and are critical in the fight against the outbreak of the coronavirus,” Nehawu explained.
The union believes the government’s proposal, which will see public servants workers fund the last leg of the 2018 agreement through money allocated for pay progression and capped leave, represents a wage freeze.
Nehawu has also condemned the government’s decision to reopen negotiations on an existing agreement and described it as an attempt to render the PSCBC a rubber stamp of its unilateral decisions.
Nehawu and other Cosatu affiliates the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union, Police and Prison Civil Rights Union, Democratic Nurses Organisation of SA, SA Medical Association, SA Emergency Personnel Union and the Public and Allied Workers’ Union of SA declared a dispute after the government failed to implement the agreement on April 1 despite stating its commitment to it.
The government had no intention of honouring the agreement and this was made clear when Finance Minister Tito Mboweni delivered his budget in February and announced that it wanted to cut the public service wage bill by about R160bn.
Public Service and Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu claims talks about the salary increases are “sensitive and sub judice”.
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By Loyiso Sidimba