The public will pay for kleptocracy
The kleptocratic faction in government has squandered and misappropriated billions of rands. Now, public sector workers and the public are expected to pay for it.
This is the view of public sector unions across the labour spectrum as they prepare for pay and benefits negotiations that should start next month.
The unions claim, with ample justification, that cost cutting and other austerity measures are now a government priority.
As evidence, they point to the fact that, of the 1.3 million designated public sector jobs, at least 10% remain vacant.
But while government freezes posts in an attempt to cut costs, ministers continue to maintain that job creation is a priority.
This apparent hypocrisy has not gone unnoticed.
Ivan Fredericks, general manager of probably the largest public sector union, the 230 000strong Public Servants’ Association of SA (PSA), says: “What it means is that fewer workers are available to provide services to the public. Workers are placed under greater stress, the work suffers and so does service to the public.”
This was evident in the recent turmoil in the home affairs department, where a strike was averted last week after a last-minute settlement.
But many of the issues remain unresolved, and will certainly feature in the upcoming negotiations between unions and government.
The much publicised recent action by pathology assistants in Gauteng, which caused delays in funerals and much agitation among Muslim and Jewish communities, will also certainly feature.
This action resulted in numbers of distraught families being unable to bury their dead.
Referred to by Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa as a “work to rule strike”, it was not in any sense a strike.
Nor was it the “go slow” that it was subsequently labelled as.
All the assistants did was stop doing work they were neither trained to do nor paid for.
In other words, they continued to do all the work required in their contracts of employment.
These workers are not registered with the Health Professions Council of SA, but have, because of a shortage of pathologists, often carried out autopsy work.
This, they were aware, could leave them open to prosecution should something go wrong.
For years, they have asked for suitable training and certification, along with the proper rate of pay for the work.
Khaya Xaba, spokesperson for the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union, says: “Four months ago, we laid out everything that was required.”
According to Xaba, nothing was done, “and we ended up with a tragic situation that never should have happened”.
However, Ramokgopa this week maintained that there was now a plan to provide training that would also take account of “prior learning”, but that no tertiary institution had so far been prepared to take this on.
Xaba says: “That is their problem. And what about the Skills Education Training Authorities that government established to carry out training?”
In the meantime, the unions maintain that government is trying to set up workers and their unions as scapegoats.
The PSA’s assistant general manager, Leon Gilbert, says: “But what we have is an arrogant employer that makes the public pay the price.”