Seven public sector unions, representing 800 000 workers, announce one-day strike

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General view during the civil servants' strike on November 10, 2022 in Durban.
General view during the civil servants' strike on November 10, 2022 in Durban.
Gallo Images/Darren Stewart
  • Seven unions in the public service have declared a national day of action next week Tuesday over deadlocked wage talks with the government.
  • The national day of action will seek to impact public service offices, including hospitals and courts.
  • Popcru's first deputy president Khehla Masemola said demonstrations would continue "until the day that unions declare a [full-blown] strike".
  • For more financial stories, go to the News24 Business front page.

Seven unions in the public service, representing 800 000 members, have vowed to disrupt service at offices, including hospitals and courts, in a national day of action next week Tuesday in protest against the unilateral implementation of a 3% baseline increase in public wages.

The national day of action will include a march to the offices of the National Treasury in Pretoria, and protest action in all nine provinces. The announcement was made at the headquarters of the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) on Thursday morning.

The government's decision to unilaterally implement a 3% baseline increase prompted the Public Servants' Association (PSA) to hold a one-day public service strike last Thursday, demanding a better wage offer and ending job cuts in the public service.

READ | More public sector unions expected to announce strike action as wage deadlock endures

Along with the PSA, other unions at the briefing were the National Education, Health, and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu), the Police, Prisons and Civil Rights Union (Popcru), the SA Policing Union (Sapu), the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa), the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (Nupsaw) and the Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of SA (Hospersa).

Addressing a media briefing announcing the national day of action, Popcru's first deputy president Khehla Masemola said the unions rejected the 3% baseline increase, especially after the government reneged on a previous wage deal in 2020.

Masemola called Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana's remarks during his medium-term budget speech on the public wage an insult.

"As a collective, public service unions at the PSCBC carrying the hopes of public servants, we could not stand by as the government erodes public bargaining. We observed with disdain as the government made jokes about assisting workers by saying 'sibazamile (we tried to help them)' in Parliament," said Masemola.

Masemola said demonstrations would continue beyond next week's national day of action "until the day that unions declare a [full-blown] strike".

READ | Knock-knock, Enoch: PSA mulls marches to ministers' homes, intensified public wage strike

Masemola said the government's actions in the public service wage talks sought to erode the bargaining power since reneging on a wage deal in 2020, and that longstanding vacancies in the public service undermined service delivery more than a bloated public service.

"Our standpoint is also to demonstrate the seriousness with which we take the government's efforts to undermine collective bargaining and previous agreements. They want workers to be at peace with less than inflation increases," Masemola said.

The unions at the briefing said even public servants who constituted essential services were prepared to embark on industrial action. The government has previously said that no-work, no-pay would apply at public service offices.

The PSA gave the government a week to respond to its demands at last week's one-day strike. The unions said the government had yet to respond to the demands at the time of the briefing. 

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