Picture: THULANI MBELE/SOWETAN
Picture: THULANI MBELE/SOWETAN

The country’s largest health sector union, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), is this morning preparing for a fight after the government on Monday confirmed that it will not implement the last leg of its 2017 wage deal in the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council.

The SA government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic could be derailed by a dispute with public sector unions.

SA is facing a growing number of Covid-19 cases and the government will need all hands on deck, particularly its health workers.

Labour met government at a special council meeting on Monday.

Nehawu general secretary Zola Saphetha says the government made it clear that will be giving public sector workers a 0% increase on April 1.

According to the 2018 wage deal, the government was meant to give workers an increase of inflation plus 1%, or 5.4% currently. The wage hikes decrease according to salary levels.

“The reneging of government on the full implementation of the wage agreement constitutes a frontal attack on workers and their hard-won gains,” Saphetha said in a statement.

“Nehawu has always maintained that any intention to disregard collective bargaining is a declaration of war. Numerous times government was warned to desist from provoking our members and the uttering of inciting statements, as they have a huge potential to destabilise the public service.”

This comes after the government declared a state of national disaster over Covid-19 and as confirmed cases overnight increased to 116, with a rising number of internal transmissions.

Nehawu will from Wednesday consult its members on the way forward and “mobilise them for the battle ahead”.

“All structures, national, provincial and regional, are being consulted on the matter while preparing to take the fight to the government as soon as possible. The national union over the weekend instructed its structures to start mobilising for a national day of action to take place on March 30 2020 as a warning shot to government to implement the agreement as agreed in 2018,” it warned.

As part of the measures in place to address the pandemic, President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday announced a prohibition on gatherings of more than 100 people. Nehawu, however, remains resolute on pushing ahead with its day of action.

Nehawu is the largest union in the health sector with some 280,000 members, followed by the Public Servants Association (PSA) with 230,000 members. The PSA could not immediately be reached for comment.

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