Wednesday, August 18, 2010

South African Labour Update: Public Sector Workers Strike for Wage Increase and Housing Allowances

Minister: No cash for public servant raises


The government's capacity to afford salary and housing increases for striking public servants was "exhausted", Public Service and Administration Minister Richard Baloyi said in Cape Town on Wednesday.

Baloyi said at a press briefing that the government had to find an extra R5-billion to deliver on what it had already offered.

"As government, we have demonstrated for all to see that our capacity to afford is exhausted," Baloyi said.

"If you talk of an envelope we have not emptied it. We have broken it."

The Congress of South African Trade Unions and the Independent Labour Caucus announced on Tuesday that "the strike is on" after their members rejected government's offer of a seven percent salary increase and a R700 monthly housing allowance.


The unions want an 8,6% increase and a R1000 allowance.

Baloyi said the government had "gone out of its way" to be transparent. "We are not hiding anything.

"Where we are, having tabled our offer of seven percent salary increment plus R700 housing will require R5-billion additional to cater for that.

"We have shared this.

"You can't push and demand your right at the expense of the rights of others."

Baloyi said he had instructed his director general to sign the final offer by 10.00am on Thursday morning.

All it takes

"We have put an offer on table. That offer is now a draft resolution of the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council, a draft resolution that is ready for parties to respond to.

"Having done all it takes, as government, as the employer, you can't keep negotiating.

"Tomorrow in Pretoria, before 10.00am I've instructed the director general that all I expect is nothing less than his ink dripping on paper signing that offer."

Impact on matrics

Meanwhile, the KwaZulu-Natal department of education has expressed concern that the public service strike could severely impact the matric results.

"Common tests for the first and second quarters of this year have revealed that Grade 12 learners did not perform well," said spokesperson Mbali Thusi.

The department on called on matric pupils to continue going to schools during the strike to prepare for the exams which were two months away.

"They must assist one another on subjects, hold group discussions as well as individual studying," said Thusi. -- Sapa

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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Cosatu slams 'elitist' BEE deals

Aug 18 2010 11:48

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has condemned what it termed "elitist" black economic empowerment (BEE) deals in the steel industry.

In a statement on Wednesday, the union federation said ArcelorMittal South Africa (Amsa) had "decided to get new BEE partners with strong links to some in the government in the form of Ayigobi Consortium, which now has a 21% stake in Amsa".

The deal was reported to be worth R9,1-billion.

"Amsa went on to also acquire Imperial Crown Trading [ICT], which was awarded prospecting rights for 21,4% of Kumba's Sishen mine by the Department of Mineral Resources [DMR] in March 2010."

The 21,4% prospecting right granted to ICT was the same right Amsa had allowed to lapse.

Both Kumba and ICT applied to the department for the right ceded by Amsa when it missed the renewal deadline, and on Tuesday the department announced its decision to uphold the award of prospecting rights to ICT.

"The shareholders of ICT have links with some in government and this is how business has been operating in the past decade, promoting narrow elitist BEE."

Cosatu said it agreed with the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa [Numsa] that the deal "clearly appears to be a get-rich-quick scheme involving a so-called BEE consortium, Imperial Crown Trading".

This deal did not address the key challenges the workers and the poor were facing.

"It is not about the creation of decent work, which is the key government priority," Cosatu said.

It said it would be increasingly difficult to dispel the perception that through this deal Amsa was buying political clout.

"This deal will entrench Amsa dominance in the steel industry to the detriment of the economy and job creation."

Cosatu said that current BEE policy was based on the view that empowerment meant giving millions of rands-worth of shares to a few individuals, while the overwhelming black majority was left as disempowered.

"Instead of making a rich elite minority even richer, BEE should benefit the workers, including the unemployed and poor communities."

'There is nothing broad-based about deals like this one'

Cosatu said that presently BEE promoted self-accumulation and this could not be allowed to continue in its current form.

"There is nothing broad-based about BEE deals like this one."

The union federation said the current policy on BEE should be replaced with a new law that would promote cooperatives which created jobs, developed skills and shared the profits among workers and communities, rather that promoting individual accumulation.

Cosatu supported Numsa's call on the ANC, and the government, "to mandate the Cabinet to intervene to reverse these seriously embarrassing deals".

If the deals were allowed to stand, they could do the country no good.

"The image of BEE, intended as a critical progressive measure to deracialise the South African economy, could otherwise be permanently tarnished", Cosatu said.

It issued a strong warning that the ongoing saga should not be used as an excuse to retrench workers.

"It must not lead to even a single job being lost as the economy has lost more than a million jobs already as many companies used the global economic crisis to justify retrenchments, even in cases where it was not necessary."

Cosatu said the "sad reality" was that the whole saga involving Amsa and Kumba was continuing despite the state owning about 18% of shares in Amsa through the Industrial Development Corporation (8,8%) and the Public Investment Corporation's (PIC) 8,95%.

The state also owned 5% of Kumba's shares through the PIC.

Had Iscor not been privatised and ultimately sold to ArcelorMittal and its mining arm handed over to Anglo American, the economy would not be facing these challenges, Cosatu said.

"These developments make the debate on nationalisation even more relevant." -- Sapa

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
Web Address:

Business calls for speedy resolution of strike


Business organisations have called for the speedy resolution of a national public-service strike that started on Wednesday, as unionists declared that the stayaway would escalate.

The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) said it was with "great disappointment" that it noted no agreement had been reached between unions and the Department of Public Service and Administration.

"Sacci condemns the undisciplined behaviour of workers in particular instances, notably the intimidation by teachers of pupils attending schools, and by striking health workers of those who willingly report for work," the organisation said in a statement.

"Such behaviour will impact negatively on global perceptions of the business environment in South Africa."

It said the strikes also added to pressures related to service-delivery backlogs.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the Independent Labour Caucus (ILC) announced on Tuesday that "the strike is on" after their members rejected the government's offer of a 7% salary increase and a R700 monthly housing allowance.

The unions want an 8,6% increase and a R1 000 allowance.

Sacci said the failure to reach an agreement had far-reaching implications.

"The failure to reach an agreement has an impact on the economy that stretches beyond the Public Service Commission," it said. "Additional pressure on public-sector finances and the subsequent need to increase the taxes will have consequential downstream impact on both business and consumers."

The National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) also expressed concern about the strike, especially its impact on the education sector.

"In light of the upcoming preliminary matric exams, we view this as highly unfortunate," said NYDA chairperson Andile Lungisa.

It would have devastating consequences for learners who had already lost five weeks of learning as a result of the Soccer World Cup.


But the South African Students' Congress (Sasco) said it "unreservedly" supported the strike.

"It is about time that the working class demands to be compensated for its worth by the capitalist state.

"It is not only mischievous but irresponsible for government to continue to offer peanuts to workers whilst often lazy public representatives continue to rake hundreds of thousands in undeserved salaries," said Sasco in a statement.

Education authorities on Wednesday tried to minimise the effects of the strike.

Western Cape education minister Donald Grant urged schoolchildren not to stay away from school.

"Our ... objective is to ensure that learners continue to read, write and calculate.

"We urge parents to ensure that their children bring extra learning materials to school," he said.

Examples of such learning materials include library books, textbooks, crosswords and past examination papers.

"The department will, wherever possible, provide teaching alternatives and will ensure that as many resources [as possible] are directed to our grade 12 learners, who have 55 days to go till their first practical NSC [national senior certificate] examinations."

Gauteng education minister Barbara Creecy urged learners to start study groups.

"Under these conditions, the best way to learn is to establish voluntary study groups where learners can help each other go through past papers and study notes," Creecy told reporters in Johannesburg.

'There's no need to intimidate'

The South African Democratic Teacher's Union [Sadtu] has urged striking teachers not to intimidate others, following reports of classroom disruptions in the Vaal Triangle in Gauteng earlier this week.

"There's no need to intimidate ... Our members are keen to go on strike, they don't need to be intimidated to go on strike," said Sadtu spokesperson Numsa Cembi.

She said most of their 245 000 members were expected to take part in the strike.

ILC spokesperson Chris Klopper said only Sadtu and the National Health and Allied Workers' Union were taking part in the strike on Wednesday.

"It is yet to escalate ... the other unions are still balloting their members," said Klopper.

He said the 200 000-strong Public Servants' Association, which is part of the ILC, was expected to join the strike on Thursday. -- Sapa

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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