2018 public sector wage agreement went through necessary approvals, court hears

The state and unions are battling it out in the Labour Appeal Court over government’s decision to unilaterally withdraw part of the agreement, which saw public servants not receiving salary increases in April.

FILE: Workers protest as public sector unions seek to strike a wage deal. Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Lawyers representing the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) public sector trade unions on Wednesday argued that the 2018 wage agreement received the necessary approvals before it was signed.

The state and unions are battling it out in the Labour Appeal Court over government’s decision to unilaterally withdraw part of the agreement, which saw public servants not receiving salary increases in April.

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In its opposition papers, government said that the agreement was invalid as it was not approved by Cabinet, among other anomalies.

Making submissions for the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru), and the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa), Advocate Ngwako Maenetje, argued that the government could not be allowed to walk away from the agreement as it failed to act timeously upon realising that the collective bargaining agreement did not pass the muster of the law.

“Even if the court were to find that the agreement is invalid, it’s got a wide discretion given the context in which this agreement was concluded and the behaviour of Cabinet and the ministers that the proper way is not to let government not walk away. And also, the importance of collective bargaining,” Maenetje said.

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The government said that it concluded the agreement in 2018, fearing negative publicity and the possibility of labour unrest, among others.

But the unions argued that the employer’s challenge was that they bargained on saving funds through various means to raise the money for the wage increases, and now that government had failed to do so, it wanted workers to bear the brunt of their challenge.

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