Cosatu wants more meat from the medium-term budget. Picture: REUTERS
Cosatu wants more meat from the medium-term budget. Picture: REUTERS

Union federation Cosatu has described finance minister Tito Mboweni’s maiden medium-term budget policy statement (MTBPS) as “mild”, complaining that it does address the extent of the economic crisis in the country.

The federation said in a statement on Wednesday that it expected Mboweni to articulate further details about the recently announced stimulus package.

The lack of detail about how the government intends to implement the jobs summit framework agreement also fell short of Cosatu’s expectations. It also rejected what it described as provocation by Mboweni, as it defends the public-wage bill.

Mboweni announced that the Treasury would not be footing the bill for the three-year wage agreement that increased public-sector wages by 7.5% in 2018, and 7% for 2019 and 2020. He said national and provincial departments would have to “absorb these costs within their compensation baselines”.

In his medium-term budget speech, the minister urged that the country would need to reduce “consistently high growth in the real public-sector wage bill”. The bill accounts for 35% of the budget.

Cosatu’s parliamentary co-ordinator Matthew Parks said low-ranking public servants are not to blame for ballooning wage bill, but rather the “continuously ballooning” senior management service and ministerial posts are the problem.

“It is unfortunate and, in fact, provocative for the minister to want to blame workers for the fiscal crisis. It is not workers who looted Eskom, built Nkandla, sent money to Dubai, etc. Yet now we hear the government complaining about nurses, teachers, police officers, etc, wanting to earn a living wage. We do not hear the government complaining about the R2.4m that ministers earn, or the millions we spend flying their wives overseas,” said Parks.

Cosatu has welcomed the decision to bailout SAA, yet in its statement it also cautioned that “we simply cannot afford to continue bailing [state-owned enterprises] out”.