The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) notes the callous attitude of the President and government to increases the salaries of the public office bearers by 3% amid a concerted effort to contain the salaries of public servants below inflation.
Published in Government Gazettes, the proposed 3% increases for public office bearers from municipalities, parliament, national executive, and the provincial executives were approved.
SAFTU does not welcome this increase based on three factors: 1) the public office bearers already earn obscene salaries, 2) public servants are offered another zero percent increase for 2022/23, and that, 3) in the context of the damage they have caused (and are still causing) to our country, these public office bearers do not deserve any increase.
Though in the Gazettes containing approved salaries President Cyril Ramaphosa’s salary is not shown, if approved the President’s salary will move from R2 989 845 to R3 079 540, and his Deputy, David Mabuza, annual salary increased by R84 764 from R2 825 470 to R2 910 234. Ministers’ salaries increased by R72 049 from R2 401 to R2 473 682, the Speaker of parliament and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) increased from R2 825 470 to R2 910 234, and Premiers’ salaries
from R2 260 409 to R2 328 221 amongst others.
In addition to these fat cheques, their expenses on housing, travel and telecommunications are covered in full or in part by allowances from government. They are even entitled to personal protection units/personnel whose bill is footed by government. This means crime which is exacerbated by their neoliberal policy choices is exclusively preserved for the ordinary people as public office bearers are entitled to extra security services from the protection units/personnel.
Sadly, the salary increases for public office bearers in municipalities, provincial government and national executive (cabinet) are tantamount to rewarding people for bungling the state through their incompetence, mismanagement, maladministration and corruption in the government departments and municipalities. We are rewarding people for collapsing public institutions, running down the public services to the ground and denying our people basic services.
In the context of the zero percent being offered for the public servants, SAFTU views the approval of the 3% salary increases for the public office bearers as a callous act. Despite being at low remuneration notches, with minor housing allowances of between R900 and R1200, the public servants salaries were frozen in 2020, and if government gets their way in the wage negotiations that are underway at the Public Sector Collective Bargaining Council (PSCBC), the public servants will receive a second zero increase within a period of three financial years.
Government has tabled the zero percent increase for nurses, teachers, police and traffic officers, social workers and other public servants under the pretext that the fiscus is bloated and they cannot afford. Their reasons underpinning the 2020/21 zero increase to the public servants was that their obligation is not only to the 1.3 million public servants, but to the entire nation. By increasing the salaries of public office bearers who are only 20 587, with 3%, does this mean they have forgotten their obligation to the entire nation!
Some have defended the 3% salary increases to public office bearers arguing these increases are below inflation. How shameful!
Similar increases in percentage points for different wage earnings can never be the same in real terms i.e., 3% increase for a basic monthly income of R23 000 can never be similar in real terms to same percentage increases for a basic monthly income of R235 455.
Ministers or MECs already earn incomes that far outstrips the cost of basic needs of life. Unlike public servants whose salaries are spend on trying to cover basic costs of living, public office bearers with such high salaries live in luxury, and strive to afford class and glamour, not the basic necessities of life.
The R84 764 annual increase that the Deputy President and Speaker of Parliament got or R72 049 annual increase that Ministers got, far outstrips the national minimum wage of R23.21 per hour (R49 019 p/a). This proves the indifference of this government, imposing wage freezes on public servants and setting national minimum wages at a very low bar that even their 1 year annual increase far exceeds such national minimum wages.
This is proof that the incumbent government does not hold the interests of the working class. Not only is this proven in the salary negotiations for public servants versus public office bearers, but in the commitment to austerity budget cuts which have led to collapse of public institution and paralysis of service delivery to working class communities.
The working class must organise to take power and establish a truly democratic government of workers in which socio-economic interests of workers, and not profits of capitalists, take priority.