1. We refer to above subject matter
2. We seek to elucidate the above captioned matter by indicating that BLLAHWU is divergent to deferment of public servants’ salaries and has evidently stated so to Government.
3. It must be emphasised that Trade Unions comprehend and recognise the challenges posed by Covid-19, which has been declared an epidemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO). We also subscribe to the notion by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) that this is not only a medical issue, but a socio-economic matter. The extent of this recognition is demonstrated by participation of Unions in disseminating information on safety measures to curb spread of the virus, submission to Government recommendations on medical and economic measures, and as well as contributions to Covid 19 Relief Fund and/or efforts.
3.2 Trade Union leaders and members are patriotic citizens of this Country who wish well for the fortunes of the Country, and are dedicated in the fight against Covid-19.
4.The public sector workers engaged in Bargaining with Government on salary negotiations , and concluded a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) on the 3rd February 2020, for salary increment of 6% for scales C & D , and 10% for scales A & B for financial years 2019/2020 and 2020/2021. The increment for financial year 2019/2020 has already been effected, and thus exhausting the first part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The second part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement effected on the 1st April 2020 as directed by the Government Directive of 24th March 2020, and 2020/2021 budget speech by the Minister of Finance Development and Planning.
5. The Government has taken a unilateral decision tantamount to a decree, to cut and defer salary increment of public servants for six months tentatively, meaning that it could be six months or longer.
5.2 The conduct by Government is contravention of Convention 98 on protection of right to organise and collective bargaining, applicable labour laws and the collective bargaining agreement as already stated.
6. On the 22nd April 2020 the six (6) public sector unions wrote a letter to Government putting a demand for her to fulfil and perform her obligations in terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
6.2. The Government responded through a letter of 24th April 2020 signifying that they are not in a position to effect salary increment, which was astounding seeing that there is a collective bargaining agreement in place binding both parties.
6.3 The Unions made reply on the 26th April 2020 recapping to the Government that it is only the Bargaining structure that concluded the Collective Bargaining Agreement which can deal with the contents of the Agreement, and therefore the meeting of the said structure/platform of negotiations should be held on Monday 27th April 2020 with full disclosure of all necessary information, among others the economic impact of Covid-19.
7. The Minister of Finance Development and Planning Dr Thapelo Matsheka and Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration Kabo Morwaeng proceeded on their own outside the structure, addressed media deceitfully and dishonestly stating that they have agreed with Unions for deferment of public servants salaries, something not true as there is no agreement to that effect.
8. The six (6) public sector unions met on 3rd May 2020 to chart way forward, and it was at this stage when BLLAHWU requested to be excused from a letter of the 5th May 2020 by other public sector unions confirming to Government that they agree to deferment of salary increment in principle. BLLAHWU stated clearly that she is strongly opposed to the approach of deferment particularly in the absence of convincing information as Government refused for meeting with Unions and failed to provide information requested.
9. BLLAHWU has since commenced the process of lodging the matter before Court for purpose of enforcing the collective bargaining agreement of 3rd February 2020 for Government to effect salary increment of public servants.
10. It must be clearly stated that workers in their households have economic challenges to address; their purchasing power has been eroded by a number of factors. They too have been hard hit by the economic impact of Covid-19 and need more money to address such challenges. A delay in salary increment will affect inter alia investments of employees at Pension schemes and over related financial obligations.
11. There are so many avenues through which the Government can raise money to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, and such include tapping on foreign reserves which are meant for situations such as the national crisis at hand, use of Disaster Management Fund, and other levies such as Alcohol levy, HRDC training levy, traffic fines and utilising the Covid-19 Fund which continue to receive huge contributions. Another approach will be diversion of developmental funds and prioritisation of recurrent budget the same way President Mogae did at the start of HIV/AIDS pandemic by suspending the not so urgent items of public expenditure. That should be complemented by improved monitoring of projects to reduce waste and projects overruns, and effectively deal with corruption.
12. It must be noted that regrettably, Government has not been transparent with information in their engagement with the Unions and thereby committing bad faith bargaining. It is of chief interest to the labour movement for Government to disclose the estimated budget to fight Covid-19, what they actually have now, and how they intend to raise the rest of the funds. Workers cannot be victims of a budget prioritisation process which they are not privy to.
13. Some of the imperative questions that arise are that, if Government is incapacitated to effect salary increment now, how will it raise funds for salary increment in six months’ salary increment and payment of arrears, for this financial year, how much has been spent and projected to be spent on the recurrent budget for the next six months and savings to be made (savings on among others trainings, workshops, external travels due to lockdown), what projects will be carried under developmental budget and savings to be made (savings due to the fact that projects can’t be carried because of lockdown), how much the Government have now and measures to raise the rest to finance strategy to fight Covid-19. This is important to comprehend the decision arrived at in sacrificing salary increment of public servants.
13. We are a mandate driven organisation hinged on worker control. The leadership is accountable to members who trust the leadership to represent and defend their interests with compromise. Our only agenda is to take forward the issues of interests of workers and we cannot act outside the mandate by taking decisions not in the best interests of members.
Yours in Solidarity Justice and Prosperity
KETLHALEFILE MOTSHEGWA SECRETARY GENERAL