While government has managed to reach a ceasefire settlement agreement with striking public sector unions to go back to the negotiating table, the National Education Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) has expressed opposition to the improved offer of between 7% and 7.5% by the employer.
Nehawu and several other unions, including the Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA and the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru), had since March 6 embarked on a protected strike as they demanded a 10% salary increment.
Government had initially offered 4.7% to the table, but unions had rejected the three-year draft offer, with Nehawu further pointing out that it still took issue with the improved offer.
The union said government was misleading workers through both the initial and the improved offer as it had decided to convert the current R1000 cash gratuity into the baseline, which meant that up to 4.2% of the offer was money that workers were already receiving.
Nehawu national spokesperson Lwazi Nkolonzi said government was effectively giving workers 2.8% in new money, which was worse than last year’s 3%.
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“The only new money that the government is bringing to the table is 2.8% and this is way below the inflation rate and, even further, way below what public servants had gotten workers. So government is actually robbing workers because it is leaving them worse off than in the previous financial year,” he said.
As part of the settlement agreement reached on March 14 between government and the unions, parties would head back to the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council, where government’s implementation of a 3% increase in the 2022-2023 financial year would be revisited and included as part of the negotiations.
Other unions, including the Public Servants Association (PSA), National Professional Teachers' Organisation of SA and SA Democratic Teachers Union pointed out that they were not opposed to the new two-term offer by government as it would improve the overall pensionable income for workers.
PSA'S acting deputy director Reuben Maleka said the union and others who had accepted the 7.5% offer viewed it as an improvement from last year’s 3%.
Maleka added the unions had managed to convince government to keep the gratuity cash, which was set to come to an end by April 1 and also managed to push the employer to add 3.3% to the offer.
“If you look at this offer in a shortsighted way, you might think that it is a loss. It is one of the best deals we ever got because we have managed to ensure that the cash gratuity is kept in the form of pensionable salary and ensured that there is also an increase that is better than last year,” Maleka explained.
On Friday, Nehawu dragged government to the Labour Court, accusing it of withholding the entire salaries of workers and shop stewards who had been part of the strike, which the union said was both illegal and in violation of the settlement agreement that allowed the employer to implement the “no work, no pay” principle.
“As Nehawu, we are vindicated by the judgment, as our bone of contention was that withholding salaries of workers is unlawful and in breach of the conditions of service, which also amounts to a contravention of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA),” Nehawu general secretary Zola Saphetha said in a statement.
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Saphetha added the ruling, which directed both the health department, as well as the Public Service and Administration to effect the payments, serves as a protection of workers from the two departments.
The health department was accused of having been the biggest culprit in docking the entire salaries of shop stewards and health workers in the Eastern Cape, North West, Limpopo and at its national office, where several employees did not receive their salaries on March 15.