Disillusioned by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s hard line stance of reiterating a public-sector salary freeze over the next three years during his budget speech, Cosatu has accused National Treasury of “mismanaging the economy” and in turn “victimising public service employees” by “refusing them what is rightfully owed to them”.
Speaking to City Press, Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said: “There is very little that surprises us about the National Treasury. They are overrated and have mismanaged this economy for a long time.
“They are obsessed with victimising the public service employees. We cannot afford to see the public service employees losing this fight.”
This comes after National Treasury dug in its heels on reducing spending, with the public sector wage bill being the obvious target.
Read: Mboweni’s budget fallout
Mboweni stayed on track with cuts announced in the medium-term budget policy statement in 2020, which effectively amounts to a wage freeze over the medium term.
Proposed reductions to the wage bill amount to R303.4bn from 2020/2021 to 2023/2024, according to the Budget Review. This is slightly lower than the R310.5bn proposed in the medium-term budget, however, and the federation of trade unions is still not impressed.
Pamla said workers will be forging ahead with their Constitutional Court challenge of government’s failure to implement last years wage increases in accordance to the 2018 bargaining council wage bill agreement.
According to Cosatu, they will also “engage with our members on the way forward” in a looming central committee meeting with the possibility of protracted strikes on the cards.
National Treasury has also said future wage negotiations will now be done in line with the "country’s prevailing economic conditions", a stance that has further infuriated Cosatu who accused the ANC of abandoning the aspirations and objectives of the Freedom Charter and bargaining council resolutions.
During a media briefing following its central executive committee last week, Cosatu also took the opportunity to point out its alliance partners’ failings, particularly the struggle to function as a unitary organisation.
Cosatu said some leaders in the ANC were “even showing disdain for the party’s own rules,” particularly when it comes to members expected to voluntarily step aside when accused of corruption or other serious crimes.
The trade union also used the opportunity to defend the country’s Constitution, calling for a non-tolerance stance towards those who seek to attack it.
This came in the wake of former president Jacob Zuma’s defiance of a Constitutional Court order to return to the state capture commission of inquiry.
While ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule has also questioned the motives behind the 74 fraud, theft, corruption and money laundering charges which he is facing, refusing to step aside in the interim.
Without mentioning Magashule, Cosatu general-secretary Bheki Nthsalintshali said many had adhered when told to step aside, but took aim at those in the organisation who now question the 2017 conference resolutions to step aside.
“It’s a voluntary organisation, go in there if you think you’re right as a citizen. If not, come out of it, go to the organisation that you think is right for you,” said Ntshalintshali.
Cosatu's first deputy president Mike Shingange said that workers were losing patience with the ANC.
“Workers are increasingly having a view that the ANC has abandoned the aspirations and objectives of the Freedom Charter.”
This is the umpteenth time over the last 26 years that Cosatu has purported to lose faith in the ANC government and threatened not to support it during elections.