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Public sector unions to take govt to court over 0% wage increases

Government said this was part of plans to slash the public sector wage bill by R160 billion in the next three years.

FILE: Members of the Public Servants Association (PSA) protest in Pretoria. Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Unions representing workers in the public sector on Wednesday said they were going to court to force government to implement a wage increase agreement it signed in 2018.

On the eve of the budget speech in February, government informed unions that it planned to implement 0% wage increases for April, unilaterally reneging on an agreement that guaranteed workers increases, which were meant to be implemented on Wednesday.

Government said this was part of plans to slash the public sector wage bill by R160 billion in the next three years.

But the unions said it was illegal for government to withdraw from a wage agreement.

The Public Servants Association’s (PSA) spokesperson Reuben Maleka said they were getting ready to go to court.

“Our option at this point in time is to enforce it through the courts and that’s what we are going to do because we gave the employer different options on where they could save money and it seems they’re not listening. They are hellbent on disadvantaging public servants,” Maleka said.

Listen to Reuben Maleka’s interview on Radio 702 below:

The PSA also accused government of being opportunistic and using the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to justify not paying the wage increases for public sector workers.

The agreement between unions and government had guaranteed workers increases of between 5.5 and 4.5%.

Government told unions it was dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and Moody's downgrade of the country’s credit rating.

Maleka said government was being opportunistic.

“Government is trying to blackmail unions and being opportunistic,” he said.

Government, on the other hand, sent out a statement, saying it was still committed to implementing the 2018 wage agreement. It added that at stake was how to do it with all the challenges it is facing.