Public sector unions begin day-long strike, crowds gather in Pretoria

Cosatu members march to the Ministry of Finance in Tshwane on Tuesday. Photo: Cosatu/Twitter

  • Public sector unions have launched a day-long strike amid deadlocked public wage negotiations.
  • Seven unions, affiliated to three of the country’s largest union federations, have planned demonstrations in eight provinces.
  • Only the Western Cape was unable to attend as it postponed its march to Parliament over a taxi strike in that province.
  • For more financial stories, see News24 Business front page.

Members of seven public sector unions began a day-long nationwide strike on Tuesday, which saw crowds gather in Pretoria for a march to the Treasury.

Unions have planned demonstrations in eight provinces and a second demonstration on the Treasury within two weeks.

A crowd made up mostly of members of the Public Servants Association (PSA) and the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (Nupsaw) gathered outside Burgers Park in Pretoria for the march on Tuesday morning.

This is the first strike for six unions amid a wage dispute in the public sector. But this is the second day that members of the PSA have not been paid a salary – they launched a one-day strike earlier this month.

The point of contention is the deadlocked wage negotiations in the public sector, where the government is offering a 3% base salary increase plus a monthly cash payment of R1,045 (up from the current R1,000). The unions want a 10% pay rise.

Other unions taking part in Tuesday’s day-long strike include 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), Nupsw and the Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of SA (Hospersa).

The seven unions are part of the largest union federations: Cosatu, SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) and Federation of Unions SA (Fedusa). Together they represent an estimated 800,000 members.

Union structures in the Western Cape postponed their march to Parliament over concerns about the safety of members amid the ongoing SA National Taxi Council taxi strike.

The government told News24 on Monday that it expects all officers who are not on furlough or sick leave to be on their wards on Tuesday, with pickets limited to their lunch hours.

READ | Unions meet government in third national action of year – setbacks be damned

The PSA delivered a memorandum of demands to the National Treasury during its march two weeks ago. You have said that even officials whose work constitutes an essential service are willing to lay down tools.

The union has threatened to intensify its demonstrations in public services and is considering marches to ministerial apartments and a boycott of local taxes.

READ | Public sector wage strike in Western Cape postponed over taxi chaos

The strikes come on the eve of the ruling ANC’s election conference in Nasrec next month. The ANC-affiliated Cosatu is keen to seize the opportunity to exert its influence on the trio. The other associations are less pliable to the ANC.

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