Cosatu: Proposed public sector wage freezes not addressing real crisis

Cosatu: Proposed public sector wage freezes not addressing real crisis

JOHANNESBURG - Organised labour has reacted with anger to proposed wage freezes in the public service as announced by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni in the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS).

The statement noted that since 2008, the public service wage bill had risen by 51%, adding that the wage-setting process was divorced from the economic reality.

READ: Tito Mboweni’s Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement

Labour and the government are already in a legal battle over the state’s failure to implement the 2020 wage increases, which it agreed to in 2018.

Treasury plans to close the country’s consolidated budget deficit, which now stands at 15.7% of GDP, through various measures but at the top of this is its plan to close the tap on public sector wage increases.

However, trade unions in the sector have long warned that should government go in this direction, they’ll have no choice but to fight back.

Cosatu’s parliamentary coordinator Matthew Parks: "If you're going to erode what you pay nurses and doctors, you're going to open up to being poached by wealthy countries in the Middle East. If you pay police officers too little, you open to being exploited by criminals who want to try and bribe them and if you pay teachers less, how are you going to motivate them to be productive, so I think for us its counter-productive and it's not addressing the real crisis."

The government wants to implement reductions in non-interest spending over the next three years amounting to R300 billion which will be applied to the wage bill.

Wage negotiations between government and unions have just begun but Parks said that no discussions were held about the wage freeze.

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