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
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.