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"If government doesn’t have money to pay public wages, What are they stealing?" Nehawu questions GOV

Source: BusinesstechBecause too much money is already being taken from state coffers, according to the National Education, Health, and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu), the government cannot argue that it lacks the finances to meet wage agreements.

According to the union, the only option for the government to avoid a nationwide strike by its employees is for it to adhere to the wage increases agreed upon last year.

Salaries for public employees are determined via arbitration with labor unions, and agreements are in effect for a period of three years. The new agreement will be in force until the end of March in 2021. However, in February, the government requested a postponement in the implementation of the last phase of the three-year wage agreement, claiming that it could not cope with it.

According to the leadership of Nehawu, who said that too much money was being siphoned off by state theft, it was clear that the government had a lot of resources at its disposal at a news conference on Wednesday.

"(The wages would be paid from) the treasuries, which have been plundered of their funds. A lot of money is sitting in there. If there is no revenue, it is impossible to steal. The money is in the possession of Tito (Mboweni) "stated the political party

Nehawu has a membership base of moreover 240,000 people, making it the biggest public-sector union in the world by membership numbers. It said that any high-level or otherwise conversation with the government would not be about reviewing the pay agreement, but rather about finding a method to ensure that the agreement was respected.

The union said that it is intolerable that frontline workers continue to be penalized when financial difficulties arise, but nothing is done to address the situation with high-level officials.

It is not about people who are engaged in public service and are paid from the same public money - there are many of them, including MPs – he continued.

National Treasury intends to reduce the public sector pay bill by R160 billion over the next three years - a goal that has been greeted with opposition from public sector labor unions due to the nature of the work being done.

Concerning the SAA,

Argentinean authorities' mismanagement of the insolvent airline SAA, as well as their most recent effort to save the company so that it may be reformed and re-launched, have contributed to the country's problems, perhaps undermining the government's claim that it has no cash.

However, according to Intellidex analyst Peter Attard Montalto, while the government would have to restructure its spending in order to find the funds to bail out SAA again, the fact that it intends on doing so will demonstrate to labor unions – and perhaps even the courts – that the state can raise funds if there is enough political will on its side.

If the unions successfully challenge this in court, the government will be forced to honor its existing compensation agreement with civil servants, which would very certainly result in billions of dollars in back pay.

According to the analyst, this will result in about R32 billion in back-payment interest, with the government potentially liable for an additional R82 billion in future increases.

Action on the battlefield

The course of the government's confrontation with the workers is often influenced by factors beyond its control.

COSATU (Congress of South African Labor Unions) is seeking more support for national organizing efforts in the run-up to the anticipated nationwide socio-economic strike scheduled for 7 October 2020, according to the organization.

The Federation has called on both workers and South Africans to participate in the strike that will take place the following week. Approximately 1.8 million people are employed by Cosatu, which is the world's largest labor organization by the membership.

"South Africa is on the brink of extinction, and it is past time for us all to stand up and demand prompt action from policymakers and decision-makers," the trade union said in its statement.

Although Cosatu believes that the strike action will continue to be focused primarily on the wage dispute with the government, the federation believes that more support to frontline workers and improved governance are still required by the union.

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Allied Workers' Union National Education Nehawu

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