Hundreds of Public Servants Association (PSA) workers in Cape Town joined the national strike in public services as they marched to parliament on Thursday. Public servants have been picketing around the country following the collapse of wage negotiations last month. The unions in the public sector are demanding a 10% salary increase across the board while the government has unilaterally implemented its 3% offer after it failed to win the support from the majority of unions after 21 days in the bargaining council.
In a letter dated 17 October that was leaked on the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (Nupsaw) twitter page, the acting Minister of Public Service and Administration Thulas Nxesi informed the general secretary of the public service bargaining council, Frikkie de Bruin, that he was considering implementing the 3% wage hike in line with the Public Service Act. Section 5 of the Act allows government to enforce salary increases unilaterally, as long as doing so does not reduce wages and benefits.
A three-year wage deal was struck in the bargaining council but the government reneged on its implementation in 2020, claiming the deal was no longer affordable.
One of the demands of the PSA is the withdrawal of the unilateral implementation of the three percent salary increase “as it diminishes the gains of democracy and undermines the purpose of the Labour Relations Act for orderly collective bargaining.” The union says that the salary bill cannot be made the scapegoat for “years of unabated fraud and corruption.”
Speaking to the striking workers outside parliament, Martinique Marinus, the provincial manager of the Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of SA (Hospersa), said that they deserve to be treated with respect as they are essential workers and they carried the country during the lockdown and Covid-19 pandemic.
Explaining the government’s “reneging from implementing a negotiated three-year agreement in 2020”, PSA’s national chairperson, Pierre Snyman said that the government “offered a 0% increase in 2020 and in 2021 they offered a 1.5% pay progression, and in 2022, they are offering 3% which is below the consumer price index.”
Riefdah Ajam, the general secretary of the Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA), to which PSA and Hospersa are affiliated, said that the strike is also about their demand that vacant posts be filled and to protect collective bargaining.
The unions gave the president seven days to respond to their demands.