President Cyril Ramaphosa is on the verge of losing some of his powerful allies within the trade union federation Cosatu after coming out in defence of Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s recent budget speech.
On Monday, the ANC’s national working committee (NWC) invited the federation to its meeting to discuss government’s intention to revisit the public sector wage bill. Cosatu, however, refused to discuss any matters related to the wage bill outside the bargaining council.
This was after Cosatu’s affiliate unions, including its two biggest, Sadtu and Nehawu, threatened to go on a national shutdown if government reneges on the wage agreement.
The point of contention between government and unions is National Treasury’s plan to cut provincial and national departments’ wage bill by R160.2bn over three years.
In its Budget Review, Treasury proposed cuts to the wage bill of R37.8bn in 2020-21, R54.9bn in 2021-22 and R67.5bn in 2022-23.
In terms of the agreement, salaries are due to increase up to 7%, or CPI+ 1%, on April 1, depending on the job grade, Fin24 reported.
Nehawu and Popcru have both expressed a loss of confidence in Ramaphosa’s administration.
Speaking to News24, Nehawu’s deputy general secretary December Mavuso said while Ramaphosa’s speech demonstrated a pro-poor agenda, his policies have differed.
Mavuso said he was disappointed in Ramaphosa and his administration, and indicated that the president was failing to provide leadership.
This sentiment was shared by Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi last week while she updated the media on its central executive committee meeting.
“We are disappointed with government and the ministry. In various engagements we have expressed that this is not a pro-poor, pro-workers agenda and there is an attempt by some to erode the gains of workers. It’s very disappointing and our members will be prepared to fight,” Mavuso said.
He said should government fail to implement the wage agreement by April 1, government must prepare for a national shutdown.
“On this one, our disappointment is in his government because these ministers are mandated by him. He could have taken a different approach. We can’t have a discussion on fixing the economy focused on the wage bill,” he said.
“The president has said nothing decisively about dealing with wastage indicated by the Auditor-General. He has made a lot of promises that indicate he cares about the poor but no action. I wouldn’t say he is pro poor. There is lack of action.”
Popcru spokesperson Richard Mamabolo echoed those words, saying that Ramaphosa was seemingly going against ANC policies.
He added that while the union believed it had made significant gains under Ramaphosa’s administration, government had displayed an “appetite to reverse the gains made in the past 25 years”.
“It’s a matter of one person saying one thing but doing the other. ANC and government are becoming more unrealistic. Government is becoming more independent of the resolutions of the ANC. Government is showing that it’s not in line with a pro-poor agenda.”
Cosatu is scheduled to have back-to-back meetings with its affiliates on Tuesday to update them on its meeting with the NWC.
According to Fin24, a document presented to the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council on February 25, stated that government spending was at its highest since the start of democracy and “well above what the economy can afford”.
This, as Statistics SA released its findings on Tuesday that South Africa’s economy had slumped into its third recession since 1994.