Public sector unions launch campaign to challenge govt over wage disputes

The unions representing more than 1.2 million public servants have been in a drawn-out deadlock over government’s failure to stick to a 2018 agreement to increase workers’ salaries this year.

FILE: Cosatu's members marched on Parliament on 19 February 2019 amid concerns over potential job cuts at state entities, like Eskom. Picture: EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Several public sector unions affiliated to the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) on Friday announced their plans for a programme of defiance in the public service over wage disputes and other unmet collective bargaining deals.

The unions representing more than 1.2 million public servants have been in a drawn-out deadlock over government’s failure to stick to a 2018 agreement to increase workers’ salaries this year, with a court case over the matter pending before the Labour Court.

The campaign, which starts on Monday, will include lunch-hour pickets at workplaces, peaceful demonstrations, and sit-ins in “strategic offices of government”.

Nursing union - Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa, police union - Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union, the Public Servants Association, and the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) were among the unions which would likely disrupt services at some public service institutions.

The unions warned that the activities would be more intensified if government continued to ignore their demands.

The state has not paid workers in the sector wage increases as per the 2018 wage agreement, arguing in court papers that its negotiators at the time did not have the mandate to commit to such hikes.

“This is our call of passive resistance against the onslaught by government led by the Finance Minister Tito Mboweni and the Minister of Public Service and Administration Senzo Mchunu to collapse the legitimate collective bargaining platform in the public service,” said Cosatu first deputy president Mike Shingange.

Meanwhile, the unions also directed their ire at government cancelling pay progressions and the drastic reduction of funding for performance bonuses for public servants.

National Treasury is implementing several measures to cut R160 billion from the wage bill in the next three years.

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