Nehawu: No evidence Treasury objected to disputed clause in 2018 wage deal

The union and others are appealing a Labour Appeal Court judgment on Tuesday that found the clause guaranteeing workers salary increases for 2020 was invalid as it was not approved by National Treasury in terms of existing regulations.

FILE: Nehawu members protest for better working conditions on 26 August 2020. Picture: Nehawu AD/Facebook

JOHANNESBURG - National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) have told the Constitutional Court that National Treasury had not offered evidence to support its claim that it raised objections to the disputed clause 3.3 of the 2018 public sector wage agreement.

The union and others are appealing a Labour Appeal Court judgment on Tuesday that found the clause guaranteeing workers salary increases for 2020 was invalid as it was not approved by National Treasury in terms of existing regulations.

Advocate William Mokhare for Nehawu argued that all departments’ director-generals were present during the wage negotiations and did not overrule the wage agreement which was proposed by government.

“It doesn't say that the proposal put forward to Cabinet by the minister of finance was rejected by Cabinet. It doesn’t say that.”

Mokhare said that trade unions only became aware that the government planned to renege on the agreement last year in March.

He insisted that government's reasoning that it did not have money to finance the deal should be dismissed.

“Nehawu has set out a number of situations, which have come to play of the unavailability of money apart from COVID. But we are saying that is not the basis for any government anywhere in the world to walk away from its obligations because it sets the wrong precedents in the private sector and individual in the street.”

Lawyers representing several public sector unions have argued that government’s initial reasoning for not implementing public servants’ wage increases was over affordability and not legality.

Advocate Ngwako Maenetje said the government did not appear to have a problem with the deal until the question of affordability arose.

“The question whether government complied at the time of the conclusion of the collective agreement cannot be answered by whether there was money in the bank or not or in the budget, because government at that point decided it was going to cover the shortfall through cost-cutting measures, which were implemented once the collective agreement was concluded.”

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