The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) is planning a major strike action at the end of November in response to the government’s decision to freeze public-sector wages.
The union said it will convene a national day of action in the form of marches to be directed to both the union building and national parliament on 26 November 2020.
“(The action is) aimed at physically collecting our money as Public Servants from Tito and to raise sharply the issue of the onslaught on collective bargaining, austerity measures and neoliberal policies by National Treasury and the intended wage freeze,” the union said.
The union accused finance minister Tito Mboweni and National Treasury of reversing ‘the hard-won gains of workers while peeing on collective bargaining’.
“They are intending to cut R60 billion in 2021/22, R90 billion in 2022/23 and R150 billion in 2023/24 from the public sector wage bill and they have already started with the R37 billion from the last leg of the 2018 wage agreement.”
Nehawu said it will never accept a wage freeze on behalf of its members and workers.
“Furthermore, we condemn the misleading statement by Mr Mboweni that engagements are taking place creating an impression that we agree with the wage freeze or the non-implementation of salary increases for the current financial year.
“We will never enter into any discussions that seeks to worsen the terms and conditions of work of our members and the working class in general nor negotiate a signed collective agreement.”
Nehawu has an estimated membership of over 235,000 and is closely affiliated with trade federation Cosatu.
In his Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) on Wednesday (28 October), Mboweni said that National Treasury will propose a three-year wage freeze in an effort to stabilise the spiraling public sector wage bill.
About R36.5 billion has been reduced from the compensation of employees, mainly from a freeze in salary increases, he said.
In supporting documents, Treasury said the government proposes growth in the public service wage bill of 1.8% in the current year and average annual growth of 0.8% over the 2021 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period.
“To achieve these targets, which are essential for fiscal sustainability, the government has not implemented the third-year of the 2018 wage agreement.
“Furthermore, the budget guidelines propose a wage freeze for the next three years to support fiscal consolidation,” Treasury said.
Additional options that are also set to be explored include harmonising the allowances and benefits available to public servants, reconsidering pay progression rules and reviewing occupation-specific dispensations.
The next round of wage negotiations is due to start soon and work is underway to formulate the government’s position, Treasury said.
In addition, government is coordinating work relating to developing a comprehensive public sector remuneration strategy for the medium- to long-term. This will include public office bearers, State-owned companies, public entities and local government.
The strategy will seek to better balance competing interests on the basis of fairness, equity and affordability.