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Cosatu challenges Ramaphosa to take charge of his Cabinet

The labour federation, which was the first formation within the ANC and its broader movement to nominate Cyril Ramaphosa as president, berated its limited influence in government.

FILE: President Cyril Ramaphosa arrives to address Cosatu members at their central executive committee (CEC) meeting on 24 February 2020. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

JOHANNESBURG – The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) on Thursday challenged President Cyril Ramaphosa to take charge of his Cabinet, saying his ministers consistently undermined and contradicted government and African National Congress (ANC) policies.

The labour federation, which was the first formation within the ANC and its broader movement to nominate Ramaphosa as president, berated its limited influence in government.

Cosatu is in an alliance with the ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP).

Events of this week presented Cosatu with a fresh challenge that may eventually test its loyalty to workers versus that to the ANC.

Leaders of the labour federation briefed reporters at its post-central executive committee about the disdain felt in the wake of National Treasury’s decision to slash the public wage bill by R160 billion in the next three years.

The ANC was not spared with Cosatu leaders saying the developments demonstrated weaknesses of the alliance.

“Cosatu rejects government’s narrow fixation with the public service wage bill. We see this provocative project as a challenge from National Treasury and we will not allow workers to be used as scapegoats for this economic crisis,” Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said.

While the government is convinced the dispute with labour could still be resolved. Cosatu unions were seething and threatened to shut down the public service should Treasury dare interfere with the wages and benefits of workers.

WATCH: All the ups and down of the Budget Speech 2020

TALKS WITH UNIONS

Meanwhile, Finance minister Tito Mboweni said it was incorrect to say there were no talks between the government and organised labour about reducing the public sector wage bill.

Briefing Parliament’s committees on finance and appropriations on Thursday afternoon, Mboweni did concede, however, that communication may have been poor.

The minister said the talks involved government and trade union leaders, the ANC and its alliance partners.

“On the conversations with the public sector trade unions, it is incorrect to say that the discussions have not been happening – the communication might have been very poor. So, I wanted to clarify that, it’s incorrect that there have been no conversations,” Mboweni said.

Mboweni said there were talks with the ANC and its alliance partners, Cosatu and the SACP, with himself and Public Service and Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu, as well as with public sector union leaders and at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac).

“And now the minister has formally, according to process, submitted proposals to the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council, having taken account of all the conversations that have taken place. So, this is not a surprise to anybody, who is involved in the process,” he said.

Mboweni headed to Johannesburg on Thursday for a meeting with Nedlac to discuss the issue as well as his budget as a whole.