Seven public sector unions representing 800,000 workers announce a one-day strike

General view during the civil service strike on November 10, 2022 in Durban.

Gallo Images/Darren Stewart

  • Seven public sector unions have declared a national day of action for next week Tuesday over deadlocked collective bargaining with the government.
  • The national day of action will seek to impact public service agencies, including hospitals and the courts.
  • Popcru first deputy president Khehla Masemola said demonstrations would continue “until the day unions decide a [full-blown] hit”.
  • For more financial stories, see News24 Business front page.

Seven public sector unions, representing 800,000 members, have announced they will suspend service in agencies, including hospitals and courts, at a national day of action next week Tuesday to protest the unilateral imposition of a 3 percent baseline increase in public wages.

The national day of action will include a march to the National Treasury offices in Pretoria and protest actions in all nine provinces. The announcement was made Thursday morning at the headquarters of the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC).

The government’s decision to unilaterally introduce a 3% base increase prompted the Public Servants’ Association (PSA) to hold a one-day public sector strike last Thursday to demand a better salary offer and end public sector job cuts.

READ | More public sector unions are expected to announce strikes as the wage blockade continues

Besides the PSA, the other unions at the briefing were the National Education, Health, and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), the Police, Prisons and Civil Rights Union (Popcru), the SA Policing Union (Sapu), the Democratic Nursing Organization of South Africa (Denosa), the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (Nupsaw), and the Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of SA (Hospersa).

Khehla Masemola, Popcru’s first vice president, said at a media briefing announcing the national day of action that unions oppose the 3% base increase, particularly after the government revoked a previous wage deal in 2020.

Masemola called insults by Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana’s remarks on public sector wages during his medium-term budget speech.

“As collective public service unions at the PSCBC that carry the hopes of public servants, we have not been able to stand by and see the government undermine public negotiations. We watched with contempt as the government joked about supporting workers by saying, ‘sibazamile (we tried to help them)’ in Parliament,” Masemola said.

Masemola said the demonstrations would continue beyond next week’s national day of action, “until the day unions [full-blown] hit”.

READ | Knock-knock, Enoch: PSA considers demonstrations to ministers’ homes, intensifying public wage strike

Masemola said the government’s actions in public sector wage negotiations have sought to undermine bargaining power since the waiver of a collective agreement in 2020, and that long-standing public sector vacancies undermined service delivery more than a bloated public service.

“Our position is also to demonstrate the seriousness with which we take government efforts to undermine collective bargaining and previous agreements. They want workers to be at peace with less-than-inflation increases,” Masemola said.

The unions said at the briefing that even public servants who are essential services are prepared to take industrial action. The government has previously said that no work, no pay would apply in public service positions.

The PSA gave the government a week to respond to its demands for last week’s one-day strike. The unions said the government had not responded to the demands at the time of the briefing.

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