Police union spoiling for a strike over wage hikes

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Photo by Gallo Images/Darren Stewart
Photo by Gallo Images/Darren Stewart
  • The South African Policing Union is considering striking as it rejects government's latest offer in the public service wage talks.
  • While the police are deemed an essential service and not allowed to strike, administrative workers will down their tools.
  • So far, both police unions have rejected government's wage offer, while two teacher unions have accepted it.

While other unions in the public service continue considering and balloting on the latest offer from government, the South African Policing Union (SAPU) said it is preparing for a strike and is finalising the balloting process with its membership on the decision. 

It is illegal for police members to strike, but the union says that administrative staff of the South African Police Service do not fall strictly into that category.

Both police unions in the public service wage talks are now firmly against government's latest offer, while both teacher unions have accepted the offer. 

The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) spokesperson Richard Mamabolo told Fin24 on Thursday that the union had rejected government's latest offer.

So far, the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) and the National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) have accepted the offer, while Popcru, SAPU and the Public Servants Association (PSA) have rejected it.

The remaining four unions are still balloting their members for a final mandate. Unions have until next week to decide to accept or reject.

Government, through the Department of Public Service and Administration, tabled an offer last week Friday of 1.5% pensionable salary increase with a lump-sum gratuity, payable on a monthly basis, ranging from R1 200 to R1 600 on a sliding scale from 1 April to 31 March next year.

Unions have been given 21 days from the formal tabling of the revised offer on Friday last week to consult with membership and get a mandate to either accept or reject the offer.

The eight unions involved in talks are the PSA, Popcru, SADTU, SAPU, the Democratic Nurses Organisation of SA (Denosa), the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu), Naptosa and the Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of SA (Hospersa).

If the majority of unions do not accept the offer, the offer will be off the table for everyone - including those who accepted it.

SAPU spokesperson Lesiba Thobakgale said balloting has been a challenge as the union's members have been monitoring the unrest around the country. He said SAPU is balloting physically, and the current restrictions of lockdown level 4 added to the challenge.

"The certificate we possess covers all employees in the public service who are not regarded as essential service who can join us when we go on strike and not only limited to SAPS and we have the support of SAFTU affiliated unions that are organising in the public sector," Thobakgale said.

While South African Police Service personnel constitute an essential service, Thobakgale said there are provisions in labour law to allow its members to embark on a strike.

"We have two categories of employment acts... the Police Act, where police officials perform essential services, [and] cannot go on strike in terms of the law. Our public Service Act members, who are performing administrative functions to support the police, are allowed to go on strike as they are not regarded as essential services in terms of the law," said Thobakgale.

Thobakgale said government is to blame for not acceding to the demands made by labour at the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council, in which some of the demands are CPI plus 4% on cost-of-living adjustment.

"There hasn't been a shift in terms of the offer since the 1.5% is for pay progression and it's nothing new as our members were receiving it already.

"The cash gratuity is subject to tax, non-pensionable and it does not increase salary notches of employees; also it's valid for 12 months, whereas the employer intends to freeze the salary increase for the next three years, and as SAPU we are opposed to that intention by government," he said.

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