Unions re­ject cut to pub­lic ser­vice pay bill

No ev­i­dence of bal­loon­ing staff num­bers, they say, dig­ging in heels on stick­ing to 3-year salary deal sealed in 2018

Pretoria News - - NATION - SIVIWE FEKETHA [email protected] PRO­GRAMME

THE gov­ern­ment still in­sists on trim­ming the pub­lic ser­vice wage bill de­spite its out­right re­jec­tion by pub­lic ser­vice unions.

The unions have ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of wrongly claim­ing that the pub­lic wage bill was bloated with­out pro­vid­ing proof as the coun­try still suf­fered short­ages in the em­ploy­ment of pub­lic ser­vants, in­clud­ing po­lice, teach­ers and health pro­fes­sion­als, who were over­worked and un­der­paid.

The saga was briefly dis­cussed yes­ter­day at the monthly meet­ing of the Pres­i­den­tial Work­ing Com­mit­tee (PWC) on Jobs Sum­mit at the Na­tional Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment and Labour Coun­cil (Ned­lac), chaired by Pres­i­dent

Cyril Ramaphosa. Ahead of the Ned­lac meet­ing, Ramaphosa had thrown his sup­port be­hind and sought to ex­plain the wage cut plan, an­nounced by Fi­nance Min­is­ter Tito Mboweni.

In his weekly news­let­ter, Ramaphosa in­sisted that the rate of wage in­creases had to be ad­dressed as they were a bur­den to the fis­cus.

He called on the out­raged pub­lic sec­tor unions to sit down with the gov­ern­ment to find a last­ing so­lu­tion.

“Th­ese en­gage­ments need to be con­ducted in a spirit of seek­ing so­lu­tions. I am heart­ened by the will­ing­ness of all par­ties to en­gage in se­ri­ous ne­go­ti­a­tions aimed at find­ing a so­lu­tion,” Ramaphosa said.

The SACP joined Cosatu, Saftu and Fe­dusa in re­ject­ing the wage bill cuts and plans to re­nege on stand­ing agree­ments

We have em­pha­sised that we re­ject the gov­ern­ment’s plans. There is no ev­i­dence of a bloated pub­lic ser­vice

with unions. Fe­dusa gen­eral sec­re­tary Rief­dah Ajam said pub­lic sec­tor unions had made it clear to the gov­ern­ment at Ned­lac that they would not dis­cuss the mat­ter out­side the Pub­lic Ser­vice Co-or­di­nat­ing Bar­gain­ing Coun­cil (PSCBC) where agree­ments on pub­lic ser­vant wages were con­cluded.

“We have em­pha­sised that we re­ject the plans by the gov­ern­ment. There is not even ev­i­dence of a bloated pub­lic ser­vice,” Ajam said.

Ramaphosa de­scribed Mboweni’s Bud­get as con­tain­ing “a range of bal­anced and well-con­sid­ered mea­sures to con­tain spend­ing, in­crease rev­enue and en­cour­age growth”.

“Over the next three years, we ex­pect to achieve sav­ings of around R261 bil­lion by cut­ting the bud­gets of sev­eral de­part­ments and re­duc­ing the rate at which the pub­lic ser­vice wage bill in­creases. At the same time, how­ever, we will need to spend more to sup­port the re­struc­tur­ing of SOEs like Eskom and SAA. As a re­sult, we ex­pect a net re­duc­tion of R156 bil­lion in non-in­ter­est spend­ing over the medium term,” Ramaphosa said.

The gov­ern­ment’s plan was not aimed at dra­mat­i­cally cut­ting the size of the pub­lic ser­vice but at ex­am­in­ing the rate at which wages grew, he said.

“Pub­lic ser­vice wages have on av­er­age in­creased at a much higher rate than in­fla­tion over many years, and we need to fix this if we are to get pub­lic fi­nances un­der con­trol,” he said.

This comes as there is al­ready a loom­ing bat­tle over the pro­posal by gov­ern­ment to re­nege on the 2018 three-year agree­ment of the PSCBC to in­crease work­ers’ salaries from April.

Ajam said Fe­dusa was plan­ning to de­clare a dis­pute. Cosatu gen­eral sec­re­tary Bheki Nt­shal­intshali said the fed­er­a­tion would wait un­til the im­ple­men­ta­tion date and ap­ply for en­force­ment if the gov­ern­ment failed to ef­fect the pay­ments.

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