The Public Servants Association (PSA) said it was disappointing that Finance Minister Tito Mboweni did not address the issue of scrapped salary increases for its members in his Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement.
Signals from Mboweni that there will be no increases for government workers for the next four years amounted to a declaration of war against unions, the PSA said.
Tabling the budget in Parliament on Wednesday, Mboweni indicated public servants would have to make the same salary-related sacrifices their peers in the private sector were making in the wake of the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy.
“Our compatriots in the private sector have made sacrifices and even negotiated salary cuts to keep businesses afloat. Over the past five years, public sector employee compensation grew by 7.2% a year on average – well above inflation. Over the next five years, it will need to grow much, much slower,” Mboweni said.
Mboweni said the government and leaders of public service unions were meeting to discuss how best we adapt to the reality that “we must do more with less”.
The PSA has already filed a wage dispute at the Labour Court over the government’s decision announced in the main February budget to reverse agreed wage increases in a bid to reduce the wage bill by about R160 billion over the medium term.
On Thursday, the union fumed over the fact that while Mboweni was standing firm on not increasing public sector wages, he had managed to juggle the budget and find R10.5 billion towards a business rescue plan for struggling national carrier South African Airways.
“It is becoming increasingly evident that there is an attack on collective bargaining in the public service and laws and processes governing this hard-gained right for workers are being disregarded,” it said.
The plight of its members was exacerbated by new pension fund penalties to be imposed on public servants who opted to leave government employment, the PSA said, adding: “Government employees will, in effect, be kept hostage to slave (labour) under deteriorating conditions”.
It said, contrary to Mboweni’s assertion, there was no engagement under way between the minister of public service and administration and unions on civil servants’ wages. The PSA can under these circumstances only regard the minister’s statements as an outright declaration of war against labour in the public service,” it said.
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