Public sector’s unbudgeted wage bill goes against Constitution - govt

Last year, government reneged on the deal which promised workers salary increases on the basis that the wage agreement was illegal as the National Treasury had not approved it.

FILE: Thousands of public servants march in the Pretoria CBD as they make their way to Union Buildings on 10 August 2010. Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The government said that the public sector’s unbudgeted wage bill had resulted in debilitating debt and went against Section 215 of the Constitution which provides for its financial management of the economy.

This forms part of the arguments presented to the Constitutional Court by the finance minister in the appeal application brought by trade unions in the sector seeking an enforcement order of the 2018 wage agreement.

The matter will be heard on Tuesday morning.

The government said that the public wage bill had bypassed financial management as contemplated by the Constitution and national legislation.

It is on this basis, and other factors listed, that it wants resolution 1 of 2018 declared unlawful, invalid and unenforceable.

Last year, government reneged on the deal which promised workers salary increases on the basis that the wage agreement was illegal as the National Treasury had not approved it.

Government further argued in submissions to the Constitutional Court that implementing the agreement would violate the doctrine of separation of powers as Parliament did not approve or ratify the R37.8 billion expenditure that would be incurred as a result.

The Labour Court judges ruled that it would be unreasonable to grant the trade unions’ pleas given the country’s economic difficulties, which were worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

National Treasury said that the increases were unbudgeted and unauthorised by law.

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