President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday reaffirmed government’s commitment to protect collective bargaining and workers’ labour rights.
Speaking at a Cosatu event in Johannesburg in honour of workers on International Workers’ Day, Ramaphosa said he believes government’s representatives and public sector unions should return to the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) and work on a solution to the current deadlock over wage negotiations.
“We should return to the bargaining table and have thoroughly ongoing negotiations with labour in this regard,” Ramaphosa said.
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He addressed the event in his capacity as the president of the ANC.
Unions in the public service are threatening to embark on mass industrial action over workers’ demand for a 7.1% wage increase.
This after the government stuck to its 0% wage hike last month and presented a revised offer that included a review of allowances and leave for public servants, among other benefits, at the PSCBC.
The Department of Public Service and Administration has described the wage talks as the most difficult in years due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the state’s coffers and the need for urgent reforms in the public service.
It has also called on citizens to come forward with proposals to resolve the deadlock.
Ramaphosa said South Africa was already in a precarious economic position even before the pandemic.
“The precarious economic situation is having a negative impact on our people as a whole as the reprioritisation of spending affects expenditure in a number of areas.
“The precarious economic situation has also had an impact on our ability to finalise a wage agreement with public servants. The government reaffirms its commitment to protecting collective bargaining and all other labour rights that many sacrificed so much for,” he said.
‘Undermining collective bargaining’
At the same time, SACP general-secretary Blade Nzimande said his party supported workers’ struggles against retrenchments and the undermining of collective bargaining rights.
“It surely cannot be that the negative economic impact and the brunt of Covid-19 must be carried by workers alone,” Nzimande said.
“Let us not allow our belonging to different worker federations to stand in the way of joint actions against retrenchments.”
The SACP called on government to also take the lead in ensuring that the dispute with public sector workers is not resolved through the courts.
Nzimande said government and public service unions should return to the negotiating table soon.
“The SACP doesn’t not expect of our own government not to honour bargaining agreements with public sector workers.
“This also sets a very bad example for private capitalist bosses who think they can also embark on unilateral actions, thus undermining the collective bargaining system that South African workers fought so hard for,” he said.
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