SAFTU calls Finance Minister’s support for a 3% pay raise an insult

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The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) has described Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana’s endorsement of the government’s decision to unilaterally implement a 3% wage increase for public servants as an insult.

Godongwana tabled his Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement in the National Assembly on Wednesday, saying Section 5 of the Public Service Act would be invoked to bring finality to wage talks.

He said the offer would be backdated to April. It comes amid the collapse of negotiations with public sector unions.

SAFTU’s General-Secretary is Zwelinzima Vavi says, “It is simply annoying and very insulting that the Minister thinks the workers are fools and that they can just willy-nilly pull the wool over their eyes and tell them that they are getting 7.4% when they are actually offering 3.5% in the bargaining chamber. Workers are clear – they are demanding 8% and rejecting 3.5%.”

Cosatu disappointed 

Labour Federation, Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) voiced disappointment in Godongwana’s endorsement of the government’s decision to unilaterally implement a 3% wage increase for public servants.

Its General Secretary Solly Phetoe says, “Our response is that it is so disappointing in that the Minister or government decided to negotiate at parliament when they know that there is a process where they are expected to go back to the platform and talk about these issues. So, implementing the 3% and the other things without going back to the negotiating table is disappointing.”

Cosatu-affiliated unions and the Public Servants Association collectively represent around 1.3 million public service workers.

The unions are gearing up to embark on nationwide pickets and industrial action.

Analysts say the public sector wage bill poses a threat to fiscal consolidation. Chief Economist at Alexforbes, Isaah Mhlanga explains, “Look at the size of our interest rate payments, that is the largest portion which means our debt level is a problem to our deficit. That’s why we need to see fiscal consolidation continue. Yes there is always a push for more social spending. Yes, there are high poverty levels, and high inequality that needs to be addressed, but if it is financed by debt it actually crowds out the public investment that can generate jobs for people to be able to take care of themselves.”