Vavi says strike a ‘warning shot’ to the govt

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima took a potshot at President Jacob Zuma’s salary as striking civil servants protested outside the gates of Parliament on Tuesday afternoon.

“I asked the President a while ago what he is earning,” said Vavi, who was speaking to a crowd of thousands through a microphone on the back of a truck.

“If my memory serves me right he is earning more than R2,2-million,” he said to a howl of disapproval from the crowd.

“He has blood like we have blood. He has a big family like we do. He has children to feed like we do. Our needs are the same. We want geld [money]. Ons soek geld [we want money].”

Parliament voted last year to increase Zuma’s annual salary package to R2,254-million, of which 60% would be his basic salary.

In 2009 Zuma trimmed the annual increase for MPs, ministers, judges and traditional leaders and accepted an increase for himself that was R21 000 below official recommendations.

A line of police with riot shields guarded the entrance to Parliament as Vavi outlined public servants’ demands.

“We are asking for 8,6% only. We are asking for a mere R1 000 a month for a housing allowance. This is peanuts comrades.”

Vavi drew cheers from the protesters as he shouted out salaries earned by public sector workers such as nurses, doctors and police.

Jeers and groans
“The minimum wage of a police officer is R7 000 a month. All that risk-taking to make us feel safe for a mere R7 000 a month.

“Correctional services workers, those who keep the … criminals, who are a menace to our communities behind bars, earn only R7 050.

“A prosecutor who makes sure criminals are found guilty and pay for their deeds earns only R9 723 a month. A magistrate earns R15 732 for reading all those law books and summarising all those cases.”

The crowd jeered and groaned when Vavi read out the salaries of directors general of government departments and ministers.

“Now listen to this comrades … The director-generals, the ones on the top of the public service, are earning over R100 000 a month.

“And a minister. Do you know how much they earn? R143 000 a month.

“How do our leaders speak or sleep with conscience and wake up with the statistics I read to you?”

Vavi had sharp words for the ANC, Cosatu’s political ally.

“In the private sector we know the statistics are much worse, but we elected the ANC to the public sector … We are saying to you … you have a conscience, remunerate properly.”

Vavi said the day-long nationwide strike by civil servants was a “warning shot” to the government.

“To the minister [of Public Service and Administration Richard Baloyi), we are ready to talk to you, but don’t call us with nothing.

“We are prepared to negotiate, but the ball is firmly in your court.”

After Vavi had spoken Public Service and Administration director general Kenny Govender received a memorandum of demands from union leaders.

Govender was booed as he read out a prepared statement from Baloyi’s office.

“I can assure you that the minister with the mandate committee and executive are looking at the demands. I hope we can find a solution to the impasse as soon as possible.”

Cosatu’s Western Cape leader Tony Ehrenreich was cheered as he took the microphone from Govender and shouted: “Go to your minister and tell him we want our demands met now. Phansi [down] seven percent, phansi.”

The crowd dispersed without incident shortly before 1pm. – Sapa

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