Public sector trade unions will soon square off with the government in court and at the bargaining council over its failure to increase salaries of 1.3 million state employees.
The Public Servants’ Association (PSA) on Tuesday confirmed that government employees would not be receiving their salary increases today, which is the workers’ pay day, after its members informed the union there were no wage hikes after receiving their payslips on Tuesday.
PSA assistant general manager Reuben Maleka told Independent Media the union and the other five affiliates of the Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa) would approach the Labour Court in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, to enforce the last leg of the 2018 wage agreement, which would have seen public servants receive between 4.4% and 5.4% salary increases, depending on salary level.
Fedusa affiliates include the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA, the Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of SA, the SA Abet Educators Union, Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysersunie, the United National Public Service Association of SA and Allied Workers’ Union, according to Maleka. He said the government cited “lack of affordability” for not effecting the salary increases.
Mugwena Maluleke, chief negotiator of Cosatu’s public sector unions, said the federation had referred the government’s failure to pay salary increases to the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC), where a formal dispute had been declared. Maluleke, who is also general secretary of the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union, said they were now awaiting the matter to be set down.
The government’s move is in contrast with the Department of Public Service and Administration’s (DPSA’s) undertaking last week. In a letter to the PSA, DPSA director-general Yoliswa Makhasi told the union the government would implement the wage deal. We wish to reiterate that the employer is fully committed to the implementation of the PSCBC resolution 1 of 2018,” Makhasi wrote to PSA acting general manager Leon Gilbert on Thursday.
“In demonstrating our commitment to implement, we draw your attention to the proposal tabled on March 25 in council (PSCBC) for engagement, and hope that the PSA will consider coming back to the council to continue engagements through council processes.” The government’s response to the PSA followed the union’s demand that Public Service and Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu indicate whether or not the expected salary increases would be effected during the ordinary payroll processes this month.
”Should the department fail to implement the agreed salary adjustments with effect from April 1, the PSA reserves all its rights, including launching proceedings against the department in the appropriate forum in terms of which the PSA will seek the necessary relief,” the union warned the department two weeks ago.
Despite the DPSA stating that it was committed to the 2018 agreement, it brought up obstacles that it said prevented it from honouring the wage deal, including facing a number of challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic, the recent credit rating downgrades and the economic downturn.
During negotiations at the PSCBC last month, public sector unions rejected the government’s proposal to review the 2018 agreement because it would have meant no salary increases for state employees.
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