Govt is well within its rights not to implement 2018 wage deal, court told

Lawyers representing the finance minister are opposing the application by trade unions in the public sector who are requesting the court to force government to implement the agreement that would hike workers’ salaries by up to 5.4%.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni delivering his Supplementary Budget on 24 June 2020. Picture: GCIS

JOHANNESBURG - Lawyers representing Finance Minister Tito Mboweni on Wednesday said that the Labour Appeal Court was obliged to rule that the 2018 public sector wage agreement was invalid.

They are opposing the application by trade unions in the sector who are requesting the court to force government to implement the agreement that would hike workers’ salaries by up to 5.4%.

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Advocate Jeremy Gauntlett said that the wage deal did not comply with the Public Service Act regulations, which require - among others - that National Treasury should sign off collective bargaining agreements.

He said that the unions were approaching the matter narrowly by arguing there was a contract between workers and the employer, whereas if the act was applied, the court would find that the government was well within its rights not to implement the deal.

“We raise it in relation to clause 3.3. Although it might be said, ‘well, your logic is selective.’ The answer may be for political or other reasons it is indeed selective that circumstances are such in 3.1 and 3.2 have happened that put this way - that government is as it were - is stuck with these consequences and can do nothing about that,” Gauntlett said.

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Treasury is on a cost-saving mission, with the public sector wage bill the anchor of this plan as it hopes to cut R160 billion from it in the next three years.

However, unions are adamant that the government should have played open cards from the onset.

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