Johannesburg – Nehawu insists that it will continue its fight against the government if proposed negotiations with President Cyril Ramaphosa do not result in their demands being met.
Nehawu’s national executive committee met in Boksburg on Wednesday, where it discussed the outcomes of the unions meeting with Ramaphosa last week over salary increases for workers and the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic by the government.
Early last month, the union staged a national strike action over wage disputes, safety of workers during the pandemic and corruption and slapped the government with a memorandum of demands which it demanded that it must be acceded to by September 10 or workers would down tools, including health workers.
The union said among key discussions with Ramaphosa last week was the current legal battle between the government and public-sector unions which is before the Labour Court relating to a multi-term three-year wage increase agreement which the government refused to honour this year.
The contentious bargaining agreement was signed in 2018 at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSBC).
The union revealed that Ramaphosa has proposed to create a high level meeting of his administration and the union to resolve the salary dispute.
Nehawu general secretary Zola Saphetha said the union’s leadership had however called on Ramaphosa’s government to first withdraw its court case which sought to nullify the agreement and declare it unconstitutional.
“We cannot negotiate or engage with the barrel of a gun to our head. There will be no reason to engage and the court says something differently,” Saphetha said.
Saphetha said while Ramaphosa neither confirmed nor denied during the meeting if his administration would withdraw the court case, the union would not continue with negotiations with the government if it wanted to overturn workers gains through courts.
“We can’t have both. One will have an influence on the other and if we refer this matter to the high level leadership, we should not be subjected to the rule by one man seated in a room on matters that affect public servants,” he said.
He said the union had also called for other public sector unions who had been signatories to the agreement to be included in the negotiations with Ramaphosa and his team.
Nehawu general secretary December Mavuso said the union’s NEC has made it clear that the outcomes of the “high level” meetings with Ramaphosa’s administration would be rejected if they sought to review the bargaining agreement of salary increments.
“We remain resolute on the implementation of the agreement as it stands. Whatever discussion we have will not be about reviewing that,” Mavuso said.
He said the union’s leadership wanted to push for the discussion to be concluded by the end of October where it would decide whether or not to resume its strike action.
Mavuso pointed out that the union had on September 15 met various ministers of Public Service and Administration (PSA), Health and of Employment and Labour regarding their memorandum of demands but that they failed to present tangible plans before approaching Ramaphosa.
PSA Minister Senzo Mchunu said while the work was being done on the union’s other demands, the contentious salary increases dispute remained an issue but the department was willing to engage with the union.
“Our doors remain open and we are quite interested in having the discussion on this matter,” Mchunu said.