Public sector unions prepare for legal action over wages
First April salaries will be paid on Wednesday and workers will be watching to see whether the state has stuck to its agreement
Public sector unions have said they will mount a legal challenge this week to force the government to implement a wage increase agreement for SA’s public servants.
The unions’ decision comes despite assurances by public service & administration minister Senzo Mchunu that the state was committed to implementing the wage increases on April 1 notwithstanding the socioeconomic challenges facing the country.
The first batch of public servants will be paid on Wednesday. And the unions said if the government does not stick to the 2018 wage agreement signed by parties in the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC), they will resort to the courts.
In the 2018 deal, the government agreed to pay employees on levels one to eight, comprising general workers and support staff, an increase of a projected consumer price index (CPI) plus 1%. It also agreed to pay levels nine to 16, made up of assistant directors up to directors-general, a projected CPI plus 0.5%.
The public sector unions have rejected Mchunu’s revised offer of a 4.4% pay increase for workers on employment levels one to eight, and no increases for levels nine to 16.
Mchunu’s spokesperson, Vukani Mbhele, declined to comment on Monday.
Cosatu chief negotiator Mugwena Maluleke said the government has not implemented any wage increases, because “we haven’t received any circular from the employer. The dispute is still on the table ... It will be resolved at the dispute level.”
However, Public Servants Association (PSA) assistant GM Reuben Maleka said: “We haven’t gotten any latest information from the employer. It looks like the employer has not initiated any salary increases. We are taking the matter to court by Tuesday or Wednesday.”
The PSA is the second-largest public sector union in the country.
Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa) acting general secretary Riefdah Ajam said they were eagerly waiting for salary adjustments this month as per the agreement.
“At this stage we are hoping the government will come to their senses on the matter. If not, we will continue to pursue legal action,” said Ajam. “Our legal teams are ready to take the government to court should it renege on the agreement.”
The government has announced its plans to cut the public sector wage bill by more than R160bn over the next three years. Renegotiating the third year of the wage agreement is projected to cut R37.8bn from the wage bill, or just 1.5% in real terms, in 2020.
Public sector unions have rejected the planned cuts to the wage bill, saying any such moves would be viewed as a declaration of war.
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