R10 rise angers public servants

2010-08-01 10:47

Public Service and Administration Minister Richard Baloyi and the country’s public sector ­unions are heading for a showdown as public servant anger mounts over the government’s latest pay offer.

In June the unions rejected an offer of a 6.5% increase and a R620 housing subsidy and formally declared disputes with their employer.

On Thursday fury erupted in the ranks of labour unions when it became clear that the government’s latest offer amounted to a R10 rise in the housing subsidy.

Public sector employees want an 8.6% pay increase, a R1 000- a-month housing allowance, medical aid equalisation and an early implementation date of April 1.

The state wants to implement the increase on July 1.

Baloyi told a news conference on Thursday that he was confident the unions would sign the revised offer on Wednesday.

The anger expressed by trade unions late on Friday and Saturday, however, indicated the opposite.

The minister told journalists that government could not afford what the workers were demanding and that a settlement would be in the public interest.

Unions, however, told City Press that they were consulting their members and preparing for strike action.

Mugwena Maluleke, general secretary of the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu), said his union was continuing to mobilise members for a “total shutdown” on August 10.

“We are angry,” he said. “We have lost our patience.”

On August 10 all Cosatu public sector unions, Sadtu included, will march in Pretoria and Cape Town.

Cosatu-affiliated unions representing 56% of the 1,3 million public servants issued a joint statement ­rejecting the government’s latest offer and declaring their intention to strike.

The Independent Labour ­Caucus (ILC), representing 11 unions with a combined membership of 460 000, was in an equally angry mood.

Spokesperson Chris Klopper said the public sector unions were asked to return to the bargaining table this week by negotiators who had publicly stated they had been mandated to table an “improved offer”.

But the improved offer, tabled during a bargaining council session on Thursday night, turned out to be a mere R10 improvement on the “deadlock position” of June 9, the date on which ­public service unions declared formal disputes.

The improvement of R10 a month was “truly ludicrous” and “an insult”, Klopper said.

“After this it was virtually ­impossible to believe that the state was serious and acting in good faith by publicly stating that it wished to avert a strike.”

Klopper warned that the ILC unions would probably react with anger to the new offer and that “those employees who have hesitated may now insist on ­industrial action”.

The ILC’s member unions would communicate the “improved offer” to their members and would meet early next week to decide on their next step.

One of the caucus members, the 200 000-member Public Servants’ Association (PSA), has ­already issued a seven-day strike notice that could see key officials in courts and passport control offices out on strike on August 10.

Even essential workers, who are not allowed to strike, are ­feeling the anger.

Sizwe Pamla, spokesperson for the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ ­Union, said the union would meet its legal team to safeguard the interests of its members who work in essential services.

“If doctors feel upset to a point where they down tools, they should be protected by a legal representative who will be ready – unlike the last time,” he said.

Dumisani Nkwamba, spokesperson for the public service and administration department, said the “no work, no pay” principle would apply to public servants who downed tools.

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