We, as Fedusa, support the striking public servants

- By Riefda Ajam ■ Ajam is Fedusa’s general secretary

The industrial action by public servants should be applauded. It was hard for workers to resort to a strike as they live with the reality of the critical nature of the services they offer to the public.

However, it is with the very public in mind that the Public Servants Associatio­n (PSA) and Health & Other Services Personnel Trade Union of SA (Hospersa) members mandated shop stewards to reject the government’s 3% salary increase offer.

The unions, that are affiliated to Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa), were for years considered conservati­ve, with strikes a rarity in its ranks. However, the 2022/23 public service wage negotiatio­ns have blown the lid on what we have always considered government’s ill-advised intention to shrink the capacity of the state.

The dispute over above-inflation salary increases and the filling of vacancies among other demands is directly linked to the decline in real spending on services over the past decade. This is because cutting employment means cutting services and at the heart of that are members of the public who have felt first-hand, the effects of reductions in the real value of basic education and criminal justice, healthcare, etc.

We could cite the increased cost of living as one of the pressure points that have led to the impasse. However, that would be a limited perspectiv­e of the challenge. The government’s initial approach to wage talks that have now collapsed and led to a strike, has undermined the mutual-respect principle that centralise­d collective bargaining is premised on.

From a 0% wage offer to recent 3% that will be implemente­d unilateral­ly, it was clear that the government could not be bothered about the motivation­s put forth by overworked public servants who have to cover job roles which the government refuses to fill.

Another alarming feature in the negotiatio­ns was that the government then came to the negotiatio­ns table with conditions that included the freezing of posts.

The pressures faced by South Africans who have to endure long queues at home affairs, poor service at hospitals and families whose children sit in overcrowde­d classrooms have been ignored .

As Fedusa takes a stand to support protest action led by PSA and Hospersa among other public service unions, we do so cognisant of the fact that if we stood back and allowed the government to undermine every fibre of the setup of the system for the effective running of the state and peaceful labour relations, we would have failed not only this generation of workers and South Africans but the future of our country.

The dispute over the 2018 wage agreement’s non-implementa­tion in the last leg demonstrat­es this, and so does the choice to unilateral­ly implement the 3% offer.

As Fedusa, we take a stand to protect the collective bargaining process. We take a stand to force the government to reverse its intention to leave vacancies open.

“Bloating”, if it exists, is concentrat­ed in political and executive offices, economic regulation, infrastruc­ture services and public administra­tion.

We support the public servants’ demands of a single-term agreement, a 10% salary increase across-the-board and the continuati­on of the R1,000 cash gratuity beyond March 2023.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa