Labour federation Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) has threatened to strike over government’s decision to backtrack on a three year agreement that would have given civil servants a seven percent wage increase from the beginning of next month.

In his budget speech, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni announced that the public sector wage bill will be cut by R160 billion over the next three years.

Labour federations Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and SAFTU have already called the decision a declaration of war.

Fedusa’s General Secretary Riefdah Ajam says: “Government has reneged on its agreement; we will be declaring a dispute.  That is a matter that’s been signed off three years already. Government must come to the party. There was clear expression by the Minister of Finance in 2018 that government had found the money. Now all of the sudden they cannot find  the funds, but we continue with the agenda of wasteful expenditure with  recovering funds that were looted.”

In the video below, SABC Parliamentary reporter, Bulelani Phillip gives a breakdown of political parties’ reactions to the Wage Bill

Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) General Secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali last week said government’s decision to renege on the wage increase deal for public servants is an attack to collective bargaining.

He say officials informed them on Tuesday that they could not afford to pay public servants wage increases that were meant to come into force in April 2020, for the final year of the three year deal.

Mboweni said measures to contain the wage bill had already been tabled at the Public Sector Co-ordinating Bargaining Council. Economists have long argued that government should take a tougher line with unions given the severe fiscal constraints.

South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi says, “We’re told that government is already making moves to convene the public sector bargaining chamber in order to tell the workers that they must take a wage freeze. The current agreement they signed was rejected by all unions except the Cosatu.”

“The move is now to impose a wage freeze and withdraw government from the commitment that it has already made and signed with the 52% of the public servants represented by Cosatu unions. If that is not a declaration of war, you tell me what that is.”

Ratings agency Fitch says public sector wages account for around a third of consolidated government expenditure.

In the video below, Cosatu’s Matthew Parks says unions can’t negotiate in good faith when government signs an agreement and afterwards seek to run away from it.