Statement by public sector unions on the deliberate delays by government in the wage negotiations at PSCBC

24 April 2018

As organized labour unions which are rightfully admitted in the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) on behalf of about 1.3 million public servants, we hereby express our profound disappointment and disbelief at the disdain with which government has approached this financial year’s wage negotiations. Talks began in September last year and until today hardly any progress has been recorded.

Developments in these negotiations, particularly after the recent Cabinet reshuffle, shows that government has little respect for the negotiation process. We say this based on the following bizarre and greatly frustrating recent developments:

As organized labour, we, for the first time, tabled our consolidated wage demands at this Council on 5 October 2017 as follows:

  • For employees on salary levels 1 – 7: 12%
  • For employees on salary levels 8 – 10: 11%
  • For employees on salary levels 11 – 12: 10%

Other benefit demands included the following:

  • On Housing Allowance: delinking of spouses (i.e. both spouses who work for the public service to qualify for a housing allowance) and an increase to R2500 p.m.
  • On Pay Progression: Equalization for all public servants (i.e. same percentage to apply to all sectors).
  • All other outstanding issues dating back to 2009 as part of signed collective agreements, due for both review and implementation. 

Needless to say, these revised demands predated the VAT increase announced by the Finance Minister, from 14% to 15% as of 1 April 2018 (which translates to a 7% increase in consumables).

 

In response to our demands, the employer tabled a multi-term counter offer in this Council on 25 January 2018 as follows:

Year 1

  • For employees on salary levels 1 – 7: CPI plus 1.5%
  • For employees on salary levels 8 – 10: CPI plus 1%
  • For employees on salary levels 11 – 12: CPI plus 0.5%

Years 2 and 3

  • Same offer, but reduced by 0,5% for each level

After this offer from government, organized labour took the offer to members for broad and thorough consultation and mandating. This took place until 9 February 2018 when all parties were supposed to come back to the Council on 12 February 2018.   

After the mandating process, organized labour came back with the view of tabling revised demands from members, but was frustrated by the change of guard in the form of the Cabinet reshuffle, where a new Minister of Public Service and Administration was appointed.

This then marked the beginning of the circus, where meetings were regularly postponed by the employer and where a new offer, worse than the one of 25 January 2018, was tabled by a new negotiation team representing the employer. Most notable of the change in the negotiation team for government was the reintroduction of Kenny Govender, who is the master of causing strikes in the public service (2007 and 2010 being the examples). 

The last straw that broke the camel’s back, as far as  government’s endless delaying tactics are concerned, and which prompted today’s media briefing, is the latest letter from government, penned by the Acting DG in the Department of Public Service and Administration ,requesting a further postponement of the negotiations until 3 May 2018.

As organized labour we particularly take great exception to the Acting Minister of Public Service and Administration, Naledi Pandor, for just endorsing the postponement and going public about it without engaging the unions in the Council first.

We view this as anti-union behaviour and a total disregard for the country’s hard-earned collective bargaining rights for workers. Part of creating collective bargaining platforms was to ensure that we restore the sovereignty of the country from outside influences like the rating agencies, which some ministers seem to believe in and rely on. 

After our meeting as unions at the Council yesterday about these endless delays, we came to the following decisions:

  • To continue with the negotiations today (24 April) at 15h00 as we do not recognize the postponement letter from the employer, owing to the fact that we are already way out of time in finalizing the negotiations; and 
  • That from the 3rd of May 2018, workers in the public sector under the above-mentioned unions will embark on daily pickets in the workplace as a precursor to the total shut down of the public service on all fronts should a wage settlement fail to be reached.

We hope the community will understand the position that we as labour unions have been driven to by the employer and appeal to their support and solidarity in calling on government to come back to the negotiation table before public services are brought to a standstill.

As a reminder, these negotiations began in September 2017. That there is still no settlement, 8 months later, is a clear sign of government’s lack of care as both the employer and provider of public services. 

Issued by public sector unions in the PSCBC

For more information, contact:

Mugwena Maluleke, convenor of COSATU-unions in the PSCBC: 082 783 2968

Basil Manuel, Chairperson ILC unions in the PSCBC: 079 508 6228