26 September 2023

SOUTH AFRICA: Summit fails to heal rift with workers

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A four-day Public Service Summit in South Africa has been held amid anger and distrust after years of rising tension over wages.

President of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union, Mike Shingange said the collective bargaining process in the public sector was under attack.

“Workers have lost trust in the Government because they have shown utter disregard for the bargaining process,” Mr Shingange (pictured) said.

The summit, involving both unions and Government representatives, was held in a fraught atmosphere after the Government did not pay the final year of a wage agreement reached in 2018.

“When the Government has just torn to shreds a collective bargaining agreement that it was already implementing, an obvious question arises — against whom is this summit seeking to defend collective bargaining?” Mr Shingange said.

He said the Government’s move to renege on the agreement, and a court’s later decision to uphold it, meant the future of collective bargaining was no longer guaranteed.

Minister for Public Service and Administration, Ayandla Dlodlo admitted that trust had been broken, but still believed there was a relationship to salvage.

“We are not attacking collective bargaining. We believe that collective bargaining must be defended, and where there are limitations, they must be addressed,” Ms Dlodlo said.

She pointed out that despite the mistrust building up since the Government reneged on the 2020 increase agreement, parties were still able to conclude the 2021-22 wage negotiations for the Cost of Living Adjustment earlier this month.

“However, the Government is burdened. The wage bill accounts for 33 per cent of all wages paid in South Africa, while it employs only around 13 per cent of all workers,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union announced it was not taking part in the summit.

The union, which represents more than 150,000 public employees, said the summit was nothing but a “perception management process” by the employer and no tangible results would come from it.

Pretoria, 31 March 2022

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