The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) criticised the Public Servants Association of South Africa (PSA) for its “stunts” during the public sector wage negotiations.
In a statement released on Monday, the teachers’ union noted that despite the challenging conditions of the protracted wage negotiations, the finalised agreement “was closer to what would have suited the workers”.
The deal, which was set to be signed off by unions on May 21, will see 7% increases for junior employees for 2018/2019, backdated to April 1, when the previous agreement lapsed. Mid-level employees will receive 6.5% increases and senior staff will have raises of 6%.
The agreement for the first year for the entire civil service is above inflation increases with the Bureau of Economic Research projecting Consumer Price Index (CPI) at 5.2% in 2018.
However, not all members of the bargaining council are on board with the wage proposal, with the Public Servants Association refusing to sign the finalised agreement.
Unions which tabled their demands in October 2017 initially wanted increases of between 10% to 12%. The PSA — an affiliate of the Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) — is sticking to a demand of 10%.
Fedusa accused government of trying to “force through” the proposal even though the PSA — which represents 238 000 members — declared a dispute over the agreement. The federation said that government kicked them out of the debate and pushed on with negotiations without them.
Fedusa called this “an open attack on collective bargaining”.
Fedusa accused Cosatu union affiliates of wanting to sign the agreement without debate and with no intention of consulting with their members.
Unions affiliated with the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) have also refused to sign the agreement.
In a joint statement released on Saturday, the South African Policing Union, National Union Of Public Service and Allied Workers, Young Nurses Indaba Trade Union, South African Correctional Services Workers Union, South African Liberated Public Sector Workers Union said the agreement “represents the continuing and protracting assault on workers’ wages”.
The unions said the current agreement discriminates against level eight to 12 workers, arguing it leaves no room for increased compensation should the CPI be higher than projected in the following years.
Unions say the current agreement on the housing allowance would take away its members rights by giving employers the sole right to design and implement a permission to occupy tenure.
Calling the PSA a puppy which “barks loudly in a provocative manner whilst relying on the bulldogs to fight”, Sadtu accused the organisation of having no political clarity.Sadtu said the PSA’s stunts, supported publicly by Saftu, are part of an agenda to make Cosatu-affiliated unions appear “toothless” in the media.
“It is a well-known fact that the PSA has no traceable history of pulling any industrial action in the public service but they tried to fool the public by giving false militancy using rhetoric to get our members in particular to lose confidence in the leadership,” Sadtu said.
The teachers’ union continued, calling the PSA’s threats to embark on strike action “disingenuous”, saying the PSA “always threaten to strike but they never take to the streets”.
Deputy general manager of PSA Tahir Maepa called Sadtu’s “continuous attack” on the union “regrettable”.
He told the Mail & Guardian it had become clear to the PSA that the teachers’ union and its alliance took a role of defending the employer by being hostile towards the PSA and “bullying other small unions into submission”.
“It is true that the PSA seldomly go on industrial action, because we have a long history of success when dealing with labour matters,” Maepa said.
Maepa said the union was able to exercise intellectual pressure over Sadtu and others by forcing them not to sign the agreement, despite the Cosatu-aligned unions having already announced that they were prepared to do so.
“We use the law to effectively fight our battles, not mediocracy painted as militancy,” he said.