Organised labour: Govt attempting to sneak in policy matters into negotiations

Talks deadlocked on Friday with unions saying they would move to declare a dispute, while government has called on South Africans to submit proposals on how to solve the impasse.

FILE: Cosatu in KwaZulu-Natal has staged a picket outside the offices of the provincial treasury in Pietermaritzburg on 3 July 2020. Picture: Nkosikhona Duma/Eyewitness News.

JOHANNESBURG - Organised labour on Monday said one of the biggest pitfalls of the deadlocked public service wage talks was government’s attempt to sneak in policy matters into the negotiations.

In its counterproposal, government makes several suggestions, which would change how collective bargaining is conducted in the sector.

Talks deadlocked on Friday with unions saying they would move to declare a dispute, while government has called on South Africans to submit proposals on how to solve the impasse.

READ: Mchunu asks South Africans to help with public service wage negotiations

Some of the policy issues put forth by government as seen in its counterproposal include a suggestion that a “multi-factor” index be established to determine “self-maintaining” salary adjustments.

The “self-maintaining” salary adjustments proposal has left unions cold as they compared it to the British Margaret Thatcher era when collective bargaining was eroded.

Cosatu’s Mugwena Maluleke said: “They haven’t explored that particular measure that they’re talking about except we could assume that basically, they would want an automatic increase without any negotiations based on whatever they would’ve decided. For example, they decide to give you a 2% increase then there are no negotiations. It’s taken from what the British model is during the Thatcher era.”

While the government said it couldn’t meet the demands by labour, which it pegged at a total cost of R172 billion rand, it has caved on the provision of child-care facilities for its employees.

Meanwhile, the state has suggested that all other conditions of work demands be referred to a summit or conference for further discussion.

DEADLINE:

Labour unions have until Friday to declare a dispute at the public sector coordinating bargaining council where wage negotiations with government deadlocked last week.

Although there has been widespread talk of a supposedly “looming strike” in the public service, the process which must first take place is yet to fully get off the ground.

READ: Govt moving ahead with plan to scrap some benefits for public servants - Cosatu

Following the rejection of government’s counter proposal on Friday, a deadlock was declared.

From this point, unions have five days to declare a dispute as Maluleke said: “We have five working days after declaring a deadlock to give parties a chance to reconsider their position then come back and have a revised offer on the table.”

Following the declaration of a dispute, there will be a conciliation process chaired by independent mediators.

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