Government to expect “action” from its unhappy civil servants, should Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana fail to take on board pensionable salary increases when tabling the medium-term budget policy statement in parliament on Thursday, the 279 465 member-strong National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) warned on Tuesday.
Addressing a media briefing in Johannesburg following its four-day 12th national congress, the tough-talking newly elected Nehawu national office bearers sent a strong message to Godongwana, with general secretary Zola Saphetha and president Michael Shingange cautioning about piling up pressure on government, “should it continue to disrespect collective bargaining”.
Said Saphetha: “The congress has resolved that strengthening workplace organisation shall remain a central focus for the union in the light of the total onslaught on collective bargaining and workers’ rights by government and the employer – across the sectors in which we organise.
“This is evident with the announcement by Godongwana, that, as far as the Treasury is concerned, in the coming 2022-2023 financial year there shall be no pensionable salary increases for public servants, except the possibility for a 1.5% pay progression.
“This is a total disrespect of the collective bargaining process and a serious provocation of workers.
“Our congress sends out a clear message to government that we remain resolute in our rejection of the petty allowances, in substitution for a real wage increase,” said Saphetha.
“We are a union of workers whose basic reason for existence is to improve workers’ salaries, reduce the rate of exploitation and to improve the conditions of service for its members and public service workers in general.”
Saphetha said collective bargaining and organising was “the lifeblood of a union”.
He said the union planned to mobilise civil society to wage a struggle against the ANC’s neo-liberal policies, which have led to the country’s socioeconomic crisis of unemployment, poverty and inequality – with no possible solutions.
Nehawu would continue to agitate for the tripartite alliance to become the strategic centre of power, not the ANC.
Responding to questions, Shingange said Nehawu was not aware of ongoing wage talks in the public sector.
“We last engaged in wage talks when Resolution 1 of 2021 was signed – the one which produced the 1.5% and the R1 000 gratuity. We are still awaiting the implementation of that. So, there are no wage talks.
“It should be remembered that Nehawu was not part of the signatories to the deal.
“However, we were also bound by that agreement signed by the majority – in line with how the public sector bargaining council works.
“Even in the past cycle of negotiations, the public employer had to be dragged into it because it has come to a conclusion that there should be no collective bargaining and no wage increase.
“But that won’t stop us from submitting our demands for 2022,” said Shingange.
Asked what options were open to Nehawu should government filibuster on the wage agreement, Saphetha said: “We shall not fold our arms and watch government doing things willy-nilly.
“You will see Nehawu building its capacity on the ground in preparation for the real war.”