3 Cosatu public sector unions approach ConCourt over wage hike dispute with govt

Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said that while they were willing to negotiate with government to find a way out of the impasse, if they did not challenge the ruling, it would set a detrimental precedent for all wage negotiations.

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

JOHANNESBURG – Three Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) public sector unions have approached the Constitutional Court for leave to appeal an earlier Labour Court judgment relating to wage increases.

That ruling declared the 2018 wage agreement as invalid and unconstitutional.

The South African Democratic Teachers Union, along with the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union and Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa were contesting the judgement which ultimately dismissed the agreement on the basis that National Treasury did not approve it – although Cabinet did in January 2018.

Last year, unions in the sector and government locked horns after the latter pulled out of the three-year agreement.

The unions disputed that Treasury’s rejection of the wage deal despite Cabinet’s approval meant that the necessary Public Finance Management Act stipulations were not followed and therefore the agreement must be set aside.

Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said that while they were willing to negotiate with government to find a way out of the impasse, if they did not challenge the ruling, it would set a detrimental precedent for all wage negotiations.

"The government, through the Cabinet, can go and decide; the Minister of Finance, informed by the IMF and the World Bank, says 'I don't agree', so you put an individual above the government and above any institutions of the Constitution."

In the submission filed at the Constitutional Court, the unions further stated that a change in economic circumstances, as the government argued in the lower court, did not affect the legality of the collective agreement.

In their judgment, the Labour Appeal Court judges stated that it would be unreasonable for them to force government to implement the agreement in light of the country’s economic crisis which was exacerbated by the COVID- 19 pandemic.

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