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SAFTU AFFILIATED UNIONS REJECT THE GOVERNMENT’S FINAL WAGE OFFER AND URGES ALL UNIONS TO DO THE SAME!

The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) totally rejects the insulting wage offer, that is presented as final, which government hopes some or all unions will sign tomorrow, the 09th of July 2021. In this statement we explain why we will not sign.

1. Wages

It is not true that government is offering to increase the public service workers with 1.5% increase at all. Instead, this 1.5% is a pensionable pay progression that is implemented in line with the old agreement that was negotiated in 2018, the PSCBC resolution 1 of 2018 (see Clause 4.1 of the said resolution). According to what is presented as a final offer, government says:

a. Thisofferwillapplytoallemployeesemployedinthepublicserviceon1April 2021 and those who do not receive a pensionable increase derived from pay progression in respect of the applicable performance cycle, payable to them in terms of any PSCBC or Sectoral Agreements regulating pay progression.

b. And employees on the maximum notch of their salary levels (which is an extended pay progression)

We repeat, there is no new wage offer on the table but an adjusted 1,5 pay progression negotiated in 2018.

To rub salt on the wound, the agreement is mum on the government’s refusal to implement the last leg of the 2018 multi-term agreement. In 2020, public service workers did not get their wage increment due. We are raising this point notwithstanding the appeal which the Constitutional Court has set down for 8 August 2021.

It would be tantamount to selling out workers if SAFTU sign the agreement of this wage offer.

2. Non-pensionablebuttaxablecashgratuitystartingfromR1220forthelowestpaid to R1 695 for the highest paid

SAFTU AFFILIATED UNIONS REJECT THE GOVERNMENT’S FINAL WAGE OFFER AND URGES ALL UNIONS TO DO THE SAME!

In summary, according to the agreement awaiting unions’ signature:

  1. The employer will pay all employees that were in the employ on 1 April 2021 a monthly non-pensionable cash allowance.
  2. The non-pensionable cash allowance will be paid backdated from 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022.
  3. The non-pensionable cash allowance will be subjected to tax and will be allocated as per salary levels in the following manner:

LEVEL

1-5

6-7

8-9

10-11

12

AMOUNT

R 1 220

R1 352

R 1 450

R 1 640

R 1 695

NB: THE AMOUNT ABOVE IS BEFORE TAX

d. If no new agreement is reached by 31 March 2022 on the 2022/2023 salary adjustment, this collective agreement shall remain in force until a new agreement is entered into by the parties. This means that government will have no reason to negotiate new condition for 2022/2023, because the current draft agreement it want signed will continue. This means workers may have to content with no wage increase and a bribe called gratuity until 2023.

THIS IS A CLEAR INSULT TO THE PUBLIC SECTOR WORKERS AS THERE IS NO INCREMENT GUARANTEED WITH THIS OFFER BASED ON THE FOLLOWING REASONS:

  1. Thereferencetothepayprogressionisnothingnewasithasalreadybeencontained in the PSCBC resolution 1 of 2018.
  2. The cash gratuity is a temporary measure and does not have any impact on your overall benefits.
  3. There is also a narrative that members can make a voluntary contribution to the GEPF from the cash gratuity, however the contribution will only be from the member’s side and there won’t be any contribution from the employer.

3. Assault on workers living standards is part of the ANC government’s neoliberalism and austerity programme

Government’s neoliberal policy and austerity measure is to reduce its overall expenditure in order to meet its target of reducing its debt-to-GDP ratio to less than 80%. Treasury claims that there is a ‘crisis’ in our Debt/GDP ratio, which must be solved through budget cuts. We are warned that two countries with high levels of external debt – Turkey and Argentina – have experienced sharp currency depreciation, rising interest rate spreads and large capital outflows.

But nothing is being said about many successful economies with a much higher Debt/GDP ratios than South Africa’s: including the USA’s 105%, France’s 97% and Japan’s 253%. It is never acknowledged that our current debt/GDP level is far below the peak of 125% in 1932, or that because of state-driven, inward-oriented economic policies that followed, the ratio dropped dramatically thanks to 8% annual GDP growth over the subsequent years that followed.

There is an extraordinary silence about the loss of revenue resulting from financial outflows, money laundering and tax evasion and from recovering the money stolen through corruption and fraud. According to data released by Global Financial Integrity, between 2002 and 2011, South Africa cumulatively lost more than a trillion rand through illicit cash outflows.

Corporations use aggressive tax planning and profit shifting, known as Base Erosion and Profit Shifting to dodge tax. The Davies Tax Committee estimated that this cost the country a further R50 billion a year using the most conservative estimate. The AIDC provided vivid research on this practice when they exposed how Lonmin was transferring R400-500 million a year to their marketing subsidiary located in the tax haven of Bermuda.

The debt-to-GDP ratio has been used to rationalise the cuts in government expenditure. The massive cuts on government’s expenditure include a R14.6 billion cut in human settlement, R2.8 billion cut on municipal infrastructure grant, R13.2 billion allocations to public transport network, R5.2 billion in the education infrastructure, a R2 billion of the health budget for the next three years, a massive R2,5 billion of the police budget amongst others.

For the public sector wage bill, government has planned to cut R160 billion for the next three years, starting in 2020/2021. As part of this reactionary policy, government simply refused to implement in 2020 the last leg of the agreement signed in 2018. The below inflation wage increases, and wage freeze is part of the overall attack on the working class.

Government has refused to fill vacancies which according to the research in 2017 exceeded 200 000. Every teacher, health worker, police official, correctional service officer, municipal worker etc. knows what it means to do the job that in a decent work environment would be shared with many others.

The draft agreement does not say anything about other categories of workers trapped in precariat jobs in the public sector. The government has effectively created a segment of precarious jobs within the public sector. Government is using the EPWP to perform the work of permanent municipal workers. Government is refusing to insource the Community Healthcare workers (aside from Gauteng Province) and the Early Childhood Development workers, and has now created an army of 350 000 assistant educators. All these category of workers earn pathetic salaries of R2500-R3500 per month. These workers who actually do the work of so called permanent workers are not only paid peanuts but are easy to get rid of.

It is clear with this government that when affordability meets need, affordability always wins out. College educators, like all public sector workers are the backbone of our society, providing needed services to all citizens. Yet, these college educators are facing wage cuts in the name of rationalising.

SAFTU calls on workers to reject this draft so called final government and calls on all unions to refuse to sign it. Any union signing this pathetic anti worker deal will not be acting in the best interests of its members.

SAFTU reiterate its call that public sector workers must unite and speak in one voice! In addition, the public sector workers must prepare to embark on a protracted strike action. We must ensure that all workers, be they employed by the local government, state owned enterprises and the workers employed in the private sector join hands to ensure that we all go on a strike on a single day. Further we must join hands with our communities and the broader working class who also are on the receiving end of the government austerity programme as they receive deteriorating security, education, healthcare, local government services and general government services. That is the only way we can defeat these attacks.

Statement issued on behalf of SAFTU by General Secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi:

For more details, contact National Spokesperson at: Trevor Shaku
066 168 2157
trevors@saftu.org.za