Unions threaten to ‘completely shut down’ South Africa over wage struggle

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Public sector unions have threatened to launch mass action in an ongoing fight with the government over wage increases.

The latest threat comes after the Constitutional Court ruled that the unions’ demand to appeal a decision by the Labor Appeals Court (LAC) in December was illegal.

The court ordered that the application for leave to appeal will now not be heard until August 24, 2021.

The National Union of Education, Health and Allied Workers (Nehawu) has expressed concern over the move, as the issue “needs to be resolved as soon as possible.”

He also raised concerns that the Constitutional Court’s ruling will be used by the government to delay negotiation processes for 2021/2022.

“As Nehawu, we will not tolerate any further delays and our National Executive Committee (NEC) has requested the provinces to convene member meetings to inform members of the progress of negotiations, to obtain a new mandate and in particular to begin. preparations for mass action.

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“The union remains determined to fight to the bitter end to defend its members and workers against the assaults of our democratically elected government.

Reuben Maleka, deputy director general of the Association of Civil Servants of South Africa, echoed these concerns and said Business day that members were prepared to shut down the country if the government did not respond to demands.

“If the employer does not respond favorably to our requests, I foresee a total closure of the public service. In fact, that’s where it’s going to go because of the attitude the employer has taken, ”he said.

Reduce the payroll

The government’s fiscal strategy over the next three years is to reduce the deficit and stabilize the debt-to-GDP ratio, the Treasury said in its Feb. 24 budget.

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The key to this success will be cutting the salaries of government workers – the problem is expected to come to a head in the coming months.

“Compared to the 2020 budget, non-interest main budget spending will be reduced by R264.9 billion, or 4.6% of GDP, over the MTEF period.

“Most of these adjustments concern the payroll. Excluding compensation cuts, consolidated non-interest expenses increase by an annual average of 0.4% in real terms, ”he says.

The Treasury said public service pay absorbed 41% of government revenue in 2019/20 and 47% of revenue in 2020/21.

“Allowing the wage bill to continue to grow in line with recent trends is not sustainable. This would require a substantial reduction in funding for capital investments and essential public goods and services, ”he said.

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As the country’s labor appeals court sided with the government on denying the 2018 wage deals, any change in this regard through new lawsuits would leave the government with billions of rand owed to workers in arrears. salary.

These uncertainties, as well as the salary negotiations to come, risk destabilizing the consolidation objectives of the Ministry of Finance. The unions have made it clear that they will not accept the pay cuts.

The unions have said they will agree to nothing less than a higher-than-inflation wage hike in this year’s negotiations and have threatened further strikes across the country if things don’t go as planned.


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