Statement by the Joint Mandating Committee of COSATU Public Service Unions (JMC) on the status of Public Service Wage Negotiations and our response to the PSA

8 June 2018

COSATU affiliated Public Sector Unions under the Joint Mandating Committee (JMC) representing the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU), Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union(POPCRU), National Education Health and Allied Workers' Union(NEHAWU), Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA), Public and Allied Workers Union of South Africa (PAWUSA) and South African Medical Association (SAMA) have all signed the 2018/2021 wage deal following close to ten months of protracted negotiations.

The negotiations took place under very difficult conditions including the credit rating agencies threatening the sovereignty of our country. The changes in the government added to the frustrations as the new administration dragged the negotiations even further. The downgrading of the economy had already had a negative impact on the workers and the poor. The new delaying tactics used by the employer as a result of an undertaking made by government to the credit rating agencies that it would not accede to any increase above inflation made negotiations very difficult hence the delay.

It's however the 59, 39% majority of the workers under COSATU who pushed the employer to accede to an average nominal increase of 2, 2% above inflation for all the public servants. This didn't come because of the social media negotiations by the PSA but by the only unions in the true sense of the word-COSATU affiliates that are known for fighting for the workers. It's through the political maturity of the COSATU and other ILC unions except the PSA who value labour unity in collectively bargaining with the employer. The PSA miscalculated and prematurely broke ranks from the rest of the collective because they are a social media union and not a genuine union.

On the 6th round of negotiations government was able to improve its initial offer as follows:

  • Pay Progression: Employer has agreed to bring forward the implementation dates as follows; Educators and TVET Lecturers: the employer will implement a 0, 3% shortfall on the 01st July 2018 and the remaining 0, 2% shall be implemented on the 01st July 2019.
  • Police: the employer shall implement the 0, 2% shortfall on the 01st July 2019.
  • Delinking of housing allowance: This will bring to and end discrimination against married couples in the public sector as the delinking will mean that each spouse will be entitled to the housing allowance. The employer has agreed to bring forward the implementation which will cover Salary levels 1-5: Employer shall effect the delinking of the housing allowance on the 01st September 2018. Employer has agreed to bring forward the implementation which will cover +/- 400 000 public servants who were excluded from the housing allowance as follows:
    • Salary levels 1-5: Employer shall effect the delinking of the housing allowance on the 01st September 2018.
    • Salary levels 6-12: Employer shall effect the delinking of the housing allowance on the 01st September 2019.
  • Abolishing of salary levels 1-3 or Enhancing benefits: The issues of abolishment of salary level 1-3 will be dealt with as part the review of Resolution 3 of 2009. However, the employer has further agreed in the meantime to improve the medical assistance for employees on salary levels 1-5 who are currently receiving a 100% subsidy on GEMS Sapphire. The improved benefits will be finalised with GEMS for implementation in 2019.The parties have also agreed to prioritise through the Government Employee Housing Scheme the development of funding model specifically addressing the needs of employees on salary level 1-5.
  • Salary Adjustment: Salary Levels 1 to 7= 7%, Salary Level 8 to 10 =6.5%; and Salary Level 11 to 12= 6%

The wage deal will see 7% increase for junior employers for 2018/19. Mid-level employees will receive 6, 5% increase and senior officials will receive 6% increase. The salary adjustments will take place as follows: Those receiving their salaries on the 15th, will receive a separate supplementary run and those who are paid between the 25th and 30th, their increments will be included in their end of June salaries.

We would like to put it on record that these negotiations were the most challenging. Government auctioned the power to negotiate to the ratings agencies and lending institutions, they seemed to indirectly influence the negotiations towards a particular outcome through threats of a ratings downgrade. They purported that this higher than expected public sector wage settlement could add to the government's debt burden.

Response to PSA

Having noted the relentless mud-slinging and media posturing by some Public Service Unions against the COSATU Public Service Unions, the Joint Mandating Committee of COSATU representing SADTU, POPCRU, NEHAWU, DENOSA, SAMA and PAWUSA decided to "put the record straight" for its members and the public in general.

The reason we have been quiet for some time was not that we were afraid to challenge any misdemeanour by anyone, in particular the PSA who have constantly been on our case for exercising our rights. We were only giving each other space to exhaust internal processes.

Record 1: We recognise the right of everyone to embark on strike as protected by the LRA and as per their mandates, but we shall not allow anyone to do that at our own expense.

Record 2: The Public Service Wage negotiations at the Public Service Co-coordinating Bargain Council [PSCBC] concluded on the 18th May 2018 and no union raised any objection to this, nor to the final offer as tabled by the employer. The PSA which was already on a dispute process at the time, sat quietly in the meeting and uttered no word. It has always wanted to have two bites at one cherry: having lost confidence in the negotiations process, but wanting to remain in the same process at the same time. For us that represents hypocrisy at its best.

Record 3: On the 21st May 2018 at the PSCBC the employer tabled the draft agreement for consideration by parties for mandate to sign the agreement. No union raised an objection to this. PSA was part of the meeting; they have never been left out of any Council meeting as they always mislead the Public Servants and the Public.

Record 4: The General Secretary in the Council meeting of the 21 May 2018, outlined the provisions of the constitution of the PSCBC (clause 17.10) and the time-lines related therefore, in so far as the 21 day period is concerned for parties to excise their rights in so far as signing the agreement. The PSA was present in that meeting.

Record 5: The PSA publicly communicated for over two months that they had been balloting their members. They perpetually made threats in the media that did not materialize, whilst doing this they would take any opportunity to drag the name of NEHAWU as part of their media posturing. This was part of their failed plan to put NEHAWU under pressure to join them in their industrial action. If the PSA was confident of its mobilization muscle, why drag other unions into their mess? The PSA should do it and it alone. When the said Union declared a dispute it never invited anyone and should therefore continue on this path to nowhere alone.

Record 6: NEHAWU like any other Trade Union has been exercising it's right to consult it's members and PSA deliberately misconstrued that and thought NEHAWU is with them. This was just one of their mud-slinging tactics. They have dismally failed to divide NEHAWU members. As trade unions, we shall always respect the internal processes of each union.

Record 7: We as COSATU Public Service Unions, having analysed the employer's offer and further processes embedded in the agreement itself, such as GEHS and GEMS which stands to benefits our members when concluded, remain united and committed to continue negotiating other conditions of service for our members until to its logical conclusion. We therefore stand here united and committed to servicing our members.

Who is the PSA to claim to represent workers when they let us down in the 2007 and 2010 strikes? The PSA has never experienced the pain inflicted by the "No Work No Pay" rule. Whenever we embarked on strikes, the PSA called on its members to acquire affidavits stating that COSATU aligned unions, prevented them from going to work. The JMC would like to raise strong objections to the stunts pulled by the PSA during the wage negotiations. It is a well-known fact that the PSA has no traceable history of pulling any industrial action in the public sector but they tried to fool the public by giving false militancy calling us "sell-outs" who let down the workers.

As expected, the PSA in its "puppy approach" chooses to direct its vitriol towards COSATU Unions, accusing us of having what they classify as a "toxic majority" in the public sector. We want to make it clear that we are not apologetic about the majority that we have because we work hard to service our members and to put them at the heart beat of our approach.

A fact that cannot be disputed is that since the dawn of democracy, it is COSATU unions that have pushed the employer consistently to accede to the demands of workers. The recently released Industrial Action Report by the Department of Labour shows beyond any reasonable doubt that a great majority of the industrial actions from 2016 in the public sector were led by COSATU Unions. A suggestion that we are inherently weakened by our alliance with the ruling party is devoid of any truth and there are scientific facts to prove that.

These stunts by PSA, supported publicly by NUPSAW and SAFTU are part of bigger agenda to profile COSATU unions as toothless. As Cosatu public sector union we are therefore calling for maximum unity amongst all our members during these trying times. Our members should not allow themselves to be divided by self-serving public stunts and rather focus on the bigger picture of directing our energies to the remaining process issues which are critical in improving the conditions of the service of all Public Service Workers. We call on all public servants not to be drawn into an ego driven strike that has nothing to do with wage negotiations but an association that is obsessed with transforming itself into a union.

In conclusion, we would like to pledge solidarity with our sister union the National Union of Mineworkers [NUM] and all the workers at ESKOM as they fight against an unjust and unprecedented 0% salary increase.

Issued by the JMC

For more information, please contact:

Khaya Xaba: NEHAWU Media Liaison Officer at 082 455 2500

Nomusa Cembi: SADTU Media Liaison Officer at 082 719 5157

Richard Mamabolo: Media and Communication Officer at 063 695 6663

Sibongiseni Delihlazo: DENOSA Media Officer at 079 875 2663