Public sector unions under the country’s three biggest labour federations have announced a joint nationwide march that could affect government services.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), the Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) and the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) plan to mobilise all their members in government to join what they call a national day of action due to take place next week Tuesday.
The protest could see over 800 000 government workers take to the streets to demand higher wages.
The unions say the planned one-day march is part of the ongoing demonstrations towards an indefinite strike action if government fails to up its 3% wage offer.
“This is a protest action and not a strike action. We are focused on getting all workers out. The 22nd is a show of force. Workers have not had increase in three years and that’s unsustainable. Services are going to be affected so we need the public to understand our plight,” says Waheed Hoosen from Fedusa.
The federations have been picketing during lunchtime for the past few weeks. The Public Servants Association (PSA) was the first union to test its members’ appetite to down tools.
Earlier this month, PSA members stayed away from work and embarked on nationwide demonstrations. But the move had no significant impact on government services. This time around, the unions plan to pool resources to send a strong message to the employer.
“Our consolidated demands also included a baseline adjustment to the housing allowance to all public servants regardless of whether they own or do not have a bonded house to R2 500, bursary schemes for the children of public servants who are currently excluded because they are considered too rich to get NSFAS funding, but their parents are poor to afford tuition fees and living expenses. That list of 15 consolidated demands also included access to a pension fund before retirement and an encashment of capped leave amongst others. To all these demands, the government has refused to concede and months since the negotiations started, we find ourselves at this point,” says Simon Hlungwani from Cosatu.
The three federations have cautioned that all the workers, including those in essential services, are battling to make ends meet. This has sparked fears that next week’s march could see the disruption of essential public services.
“Our view is that all public servants are the slaves of government and until such time essential services are given essential salaries then we won’t rest. We are going to mobilise all workers including essential workers to march against austerities,” says Solly Malema from Saftu.
The federations have also slammed Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana’s recent utterances that government may have to consider retrenching public servants to bring the wage bill to more sustainable levels.
“If they want to retrench public servants then they must retrench all of us because we are going to defend any single retrenchment. They must appoint teachers that are unemployed, nurses, police officers and traffic officers. They must first retrench themselves actually because they are over the employment rate in parliament most are 70 and above 65,” Hlungwani adds.
The public sector federations have resolved to rally their collective so that it might push the employer to improve the rejected 3% wage offer that they say is close to nothing.
They say the economy has been taken into consideration as they believe government can afford the 10% wage increase, calling on public servants and the general public to join them on the march to treasury on Tuesday.
VIDEO: Public service workers affiliated to Cosatu, Fedusa and Saftu to down tools next week