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Public servants wage dispute: Are unions asking for too much?

Unions in the sector want the court to compel the state to implement a Consumer Price Index (CPI) controlled wage increase as per a 2018 wage agreement, despite government saying it doesn’t have the money to do so.

FILE: Members of Popcru march in Johannesburg CBD. Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The Labour Appeal Court judges who presided over the public wage dispute hearing have questioned whether given the state of the economy and the impact of COVID-19, it was not too much to demand that government should hike workers’ wages.

Unions in the sector want the court to compel the state to implement a Consumer Price Index (CPI) controlled wage increase as per a 2018 wage agreement, despite government saying it didn't have the money to do so.

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

Although the wage agreement was concluded long before the COVID-19 pandemic, while the salary increases were expected in April, lawyers representing the government argued its effects should be taken into account.

However, lawyers representing labour unions said this was not justification for the court to pave a way out of the deal for government.

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

Advocate Ngwako Maenetje is representing the South African Democratic Teachers Union, Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union and Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa.

He said: “When it came to the balancing exercise, the court says, according to them, it was invalid and we are now saying to the court to allow us to walk scot-free.”

Meanwhile, government is expected to continue its communication with unions after its proposal to settle the dispute out of court was rejected.

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