Cosatu: Mboweni failed to acknowledge govt debt to workers in Budget Speech

The trade union federation told journalists at a media briefing on Thursday following its three-day meeting that the ongoing public sector wage dispute is a binding contract that cannot simply be wished away.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni delivers his Budget speech in Parliament on 24 February 2021. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - The Congress of South African Trade Union (Cosatu)’s central committee (CEC) has continued to express disappointment in Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s Budget Speech, complaining he failed to acknowledge government’s debt to workers.

The trade union federation told journalists at a media briefing on Thursday - following its three-day meeting - that the ongoing public sector wage dispute was a binding contract that could not simply be wished away.

The matter is now set to be heard in the Constitutional Court after a failed bid to have the Labour Appeal Court force government to pay wage increases.

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Cosatu’s first deputy president Mike Shingange said Mboweni acknowledged numerous debts the state had but failed to note the contract it took on with workers.

“Either it’s your car instalment, either it’s your housing bond or any contract you have, there comes a time when you have the difficulty paying back or fulfilling that obligation that you have. But it doesn’t give you the right to walk away.”

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Shingange said the CEC noted that many employers who walked away from their jobs in the private sector had complained that it was following government’s lead on the matter.

“Your government has revered from an agreement and the court agreed with them. So, they have set a trend and precedence and vulnerable workers are going to find themselves in trouble because of this.”

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Cosatu said it would be hard to convince its members to campaign for the African National Congress (ANC) ahead of the upcoming local government elections.

It said some workers felt that supporting the governing party may be at odds with their own personal interests and also called on the South African Communist Party (SACP) to create conditions that would allow for it to contest the polls.

Cosatu said workers had always made it clear to the ANC that they would not hand it a blank cheque.

Both the federation and the SACP have consistently called for a reconfigured alliance, which would see the ANC involving them in more key decisions when it comes to running the state.

But it seems this is yet to materialise, with the federation threatening to go back to the drawing board to assess its stance on helping the ANC in the upcoming polls.

Shingange said this was why it was calling on provinces to debate the way forward.

The Cosatu CEC said it will also hold bilateral meetings with the SACP insisting that it must fix its own internal fractures and stop waiting for the right time to contest power but instead create conditions for this.

“Society must know what it is that they stand for, society must know what interest of theirs will be taken care of if they vote for these people. But conditions can’t just fall on the table.”

The federation is set to convene a central committee soon to discuss numerous political issues in the country.

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