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THE WORST BETRAYAL OF PUBLIC SERVANTS – 2018 PSCBC AGREEMENT

The agreement signed in 2018 is in many respects worse than the 2014 – 2017 agreement. This agreement represents a savage attack on the living standards of the public servants and in the overall seeks to make workers pay for an economic crisis they did not create. Those who created the crisis continue to smile to the banks.

SAFTU unions organising workers in the public service have been mandated by their members, to reject the deal and to refuse to sign what is clearly an agreement that will not make any meaningful contribution in improving the standards of living of the public servants.

This is why SAFTU unions organising in the public service reject this agreement!

The three-year Collective Bargaining Agreement signed in 2014 came to the end in 2017. This means another agreement had to be negotiated.

The agreement signed in 2014 was completely unfavourable to workers. Only the COSATU affiliated unions signed that agreement. These COSATU unions, which are allied to the government, represented 52% of all workers in the Public Service Collective Bargaining Chamber (PSCBC). All other independent unions refused to sign that agreement. Why was the agreement a set back for workers.

The agreement imposed a wage improvement of inflation plus 1% real improvement. To add salt to injury the agreement stated that the inflation improvement would be based on the focus determined by the Treasury alone. The agreement had no safety valves whatsoever. As you know the rate of inflation for workers in South African ranges between 9 and 11% which is way above the official rate of inflation. This is so because workers spend most of their income on transport to and from work and food. The food inflation has been running at around 15% between 2014 and 2016. The transport inflation has been running at around 12%.

The agreement signed did not make any real changes in the housing allowance, which has remained at the insulting R900, 00. The agreement introduced a housing subsidy but only for R1200. This is the reason behind that as we speak only 5,7% of workers own their own houses in the public service.

The Government Employees Medical Aid Scheme (GEMS) and the Police Medical Aid Scheme were left untouched.

In this year round of negotiations, COSATU again now claiming to be presenting 59% of the workforce signed another sweetheart deal with the government behind the backs of the public servants and without receiving a mandate even from their own members.

We reiterate that this agreement is worse than the previous agreement for the following reasons:-

 

 

SALARY ADJUSTMENT

 

Levels 2018/19 2019/20 2020/21
CPI 5.5%    
       
Salary Levels 1-7 CPI + 1.5% CPI + 1% CPI + 1%
Salary Levels 8-10 CPI + 1% CPI + 0.5% CPI + 0.5%
Salary Levels 11-12 CPI + 0.5% CPI CPI

 

Whereas the 2014 – 2017 agreement had at least catered for an insulting 1% real increase or real improvement in the living standards of workers, the agreement signed by COSATU unions provides a paltry 0.5% for worker in salary level 8 – 10 and provides no real improvement whatsoever in the second and third year for workers in salary level 11 – 12.

To add sault to injury, the agreement maintains the same sellout clause, that allows the Treasury to project CPI over this period. This means that whatever Treasury may project as it has done for this year projecting a 5.0%, there is no escape clause to this clause. Unlike before, where if inflation (CPI) was projected to be 5.0% and the actual turns out to be 6% then government would add the 1% on the new projection of the following year. This is not the case with this agreement

You don’t have to be an economist to know that next year the inflation will be way above 6% looking at the recent 7% VAT increase, the 6 – 10% increase in the so called sin taxes, the increase in the fuel levy and the introduction of the sugar tax.

HOUSING ALLOWANCE

Whilst the de-linking of employee from spouse is long overdue we reject the further delay in the implementation to 1 September 2018 for employees on level 1- 5 and 1 September 2019 for the rest of the public servants. Very few if any public servants on level 1-5 own houses, which means that part of the agreement is a ghost clause.

But as if that insult was not bad enough the government has been given a blank cheque to define what is Permission to Occupy (PTO) and implement unilaterally.

This government may as part of its relentless drive to cut conditions of employment, use this sole power to bring about exclusions to this benefit. Presently parents, relatives, tribal authorities municipalities etc., can write or issue a PTO.

For many years, all unions including those who have now signed this deal have campaigned that the Government Employee Pension Fund should be used to help workers acquire their own houses. This was promised by this government in 2009 by the previous Minister of Housing and Human Settlements, Mr Tokyo Sexwale.

 

 

COMPREHENSIVE DANGER INSURANCE

No union has ever demanded danger insurance. All of the sudden COSATU unions made a demand for a danger insurance despite the existence of the Compensation Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA).

The implication of changing a danger allowance into insurance will be that there will be a reduction on the meagre salaries of public services without an obvious benefit.

Our mandate from our members is that we should fight for a higher increase in the Danger allowance and the inclusion of other categories who were erroneously left out when the agreement on Danger allowance was concluded.

A presentation was made to the PSCBC that there was someone waiting to design such an insurance product whose premiums will be met from the existing danger allowance paid to the public servants. This means taking away the existing danger allowance and paying it over to some monopoly capitalist to enrich him/herself. This yet another example of creating and entrenching crony capitalism at the expense of workers. This we cannot allow to happen.

REVIEW OF THE GOVERNMENT EMPLOYESS MEDICAL SCHEME (GEMS)

All public servants without an exception had demanded that GEMS should not be made compulsory or the sole service provider. GEMS is not cheaper but just as expensive as other medical aid schemes. The same Sapphire benefits, which the government is giving free to public servants at level 1-5, are available from more reputable medical aids than GEMS.

We want equalization of subsidy to public servants who belong to other open schemes.

But as soon as other unions were offered spaces in the Board of Directors of GEMS, they abandoned the demands of their members.

SAFTU unions are still demanding equalization and GEMS and that GEMS must not be compulsory to public servants.

OUTSTANDING MATTERS

The government has found a way of relegating important workers demand into “outstanding matters dustbin. Important demands of workers have not been dealt with for many some as far back as in 2009 such as the Resolution 3 of 2009. Yet government is government is promising that these issues will be dealt with within the next 3 months.

But they have failed to do so in the last 9 years. We know that at the end of three months they will the unions who represent the majority will be signing an extension for three months, and another extension for each 3 months for the next three years.

EMPLOYER INITIATED SEVERENCE PACKAGE

During the salary negotiation Government tabled a presentation wherein they indicated the need for retrenchment in the public service to which they said COSATU and FEDUSA had agreed. When we alerted the members about this it was then agreed by the majority in the PSCBC that the matter will be dealt with in an ordinary Council meeting. Public servants should know that coming shortly will be retrenchment of thousands of workers. This is despite the hollow agreement that the government has not put any moratorium on the filling of vacant posts. Two days ago, and on television the Gauteng MEC for Health, Dr Gwen Ramokgopa confirmed in some way that there is a subtle moratorium on the filling of post in that there is a strict limit (ceiling) on remuneration and condition of service budget which they are not to exceed.

Here lies the difficulty:

  1. Government, which enjoys the support of the COSATU unions, has embarked on austerity measures, which it introduced in response to the 2008 world economic crisis. The government has categorically stated that it intends to reduce the size of the public sector and also intends to keep the wages in check.
  2. Government policy as stated in the Mid Term Budget Framework of 2016 stated categorically that government intends to off load 25 000 jobs through natural attrition. This means government will not retrench anyone but will not replace all those who die or leave the public service.
  3. To make this worse through the reckless actions of former President Jacob Zuma who was the leader of the Alliance of ANC, COSATU and the SACP, the economy was in a recession and two major rating agencies downgraded our economy to the junk status. This environment is extremely negative, as the government will now make workers pay for the blunders committed by alliance led government.
  4. The ANC has emerged from its congress as divided as before. We believe that the COSATU unions, which are sucked to these factions, made a calculation to prop up Cyril Ramaphosa’s campaign to ascend to power in 2019. Based on this calculation we believe, COSATU has now decided not to rock the boat and sign an agreement completely not in favour of their members. After all this was their consideration in 2014 whilst they were still backing President Jacob Zuma.

Way Forward

As long as COSATU has the majority in the public service, the workers will always be at the mercy of an untenable relationship with their own employer.

At this moment that is the reality of the balance of forces. Unfortunately it means even if we can embark on a strike today to reject this sweetheart deal, such a strike will not have the desired impact.

In the next days, weeks and months, SAFTU and her affiliated unions will be embarking on a road show to explain this to workers. The only way we can liberate workers in the public service is if they reject this enslaving relationship with the government that is implementing neoliberal programmes and austerity measurers.

Should we succeed to tilt the balance of forces, which means should more workers in the next few months join our unions, we will immediately embark on a strike to reverse the agreement signed by the current majority. This is exactly what AMCU did to sweetheart deals between the NUM and the mining bosses.

The SAFTU unions in the public service rejects with contempt it deserve the COSATU and NAPTOSA signed wage agreement in the public service and hereby commit to campaign on the ground until it is reversed.