Cosatu is warning that job cuts in the public sector will lead to a skills exit, leaving departments with no option but to rehire those who left to work as consultants.
Speaking to City Press this week following a special sitting of the trade union federation’s central executive committee, general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said that Cosatu was “furious” with the minister of public service and administration, Ayanda Dlodlo.
He said that she had been disingenuous in her responses to reports that there were plans to cut 30 000 jobs in the public sector.
“Our issue is that we don’t trust the minister. We want the ANC to come out and say, ‘it shall not happen’. It can’t be government telling Luthuli House what is happening, we want them to come out and say it shall not happen. We can’t be pushing for a job summit on one hand and then firing people on the other,” Ntshalintshali said.
“The minister is just doctoring the facts. What has made us angry is that unlike the president saying, ‘I am looking at the Cabinet size’, the public sector minister keeps her intentions quiet. Government as a whole condemns the mining sector for intending to retrench 13 000 people. But they are doing exactly the same: they announce it outside of the bargaining chamber and they are not bringing it to the alliance.”
On whether or not Cosatu would arrange a meeting with the ANC and Dlodlo, the general secretary said that they would not meet with the minister.
“We don’t want to get an explanation from her on this thing. We want the ANC to see Dlodlo, that is their homework. They are the leading party. If you have not taken that decision as the ANC, then tell the minister that it shall not happen unless it is the minister that is dictating to the ANC what will happen.”
Cosatu this week went as far as threatening to take to the streets in protest. Ntshalintshali said the issue of whether or not workers would be mandated to vote for the ANC would be decided by delegates at next month’s national conference.
“Workers will have to discuss this critically in the congress and decide who to vote for. They may choose not to vote for anyone, as has been seen in other countries when the liberation movement does something workers don’t like. They lose all confidence in politics and choose to abandon all political parties.
“But I don’t think we are there yet. We think people will want to engage the ANC and say, ‘our vote is not free’. Our vote is not a blank cheque. In terms of our 2015 plan we said every time when the elections come, Cosatu must sit down and do an assessment before taking a decision on how to vote. There is no permanent voting for the ANC.”
Having championed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s campaign for the top job, Cosatu has repeatedly been left red-faced over a series of austerity measures taken by his administration.
Despite failing to strong-arm government into rethinking its position on the key bread-and-butter issue of the VAT increase, Ntshalintshali said Cosatu still believed that it had “a partner” in Ramaphosa.
The federation giant has laid the blame at Treasury’s door, saying that Dlodlo had been strong-armed by that department into making the decision to get rid of workers. “It might not be her [Dlodlo] pushing it – it may be Treasury and they are not ready to announce. She also confuses what retrenchment means, it means dismissal of people for operational reasons like budgeting.
“She says they will not retrench but lay off people. But the effect is the same, you are cutting the post. In our view when you give out those packages, people who are skilled will take the packages. Then you will be left with people with fewer skills and what will happen then is that they will re-enter as consultants. They will say we can help and do the job from outside,” said Ntshalintshali.
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