The pub­lic will pay for klep­toc­racy

CityPress - - Business - Terry Bell busi­ness@city­press.co.za

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.”

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