South Africa – The Public Servants Association (PSA) members are expected to stage a national strike tomorrow to protest against the government’s unilateral implementation of a 3% increase. Protests are expected to be help in Cape Town, Pretoria, Durban, Bloemfontein and Kimberly.
The union, which represents close to 240,000 workers, declared a deadlock after government failed to give in to their demand for a 6.5% increase across the board for all public servants, including essential workers. Instead, government offered a 3% wage increase for public service workers including a R1,000 non-pensionable cash allowance until March next year, as well as a 1.5% pay progression for qualifying employees. The offer by government is simply not enough as it is way below inflation rate, said Ruben Maleka, PSA Spokesperson.
“As we stated, we are willing to negotiate and engage the employer at any time to avert the crippling strike that will start. We are still at the settlement rate of 6.5%, which is way below inflation. Inflation stands at 7.4%. We are sitting with an employer that is still stuck at 3% … We are ready to roll out the masses.”
A peaceful protest to make their voices heard
Most protests in South Africa usually end up with property and infrastructure being destroyed. It is a way for those who are aggrieved to make their voices heard as they believe it is the only way government will listen to them. The PSA has called for a peaceful march and will be working with police to ensure there are incidents of violence or destruction, said Maleka.
“It is not the first time we will be embarking on this action. We have done so before with no particular incidents of violence. As you know, many of the strikes could always have intruders. We will make with the police to ensure those that try to hijack the strike for their own purpose are dealt with as criminals. Our members are peaceful, law abiding citizens and I don’t believe that you’ll find any PSA member who’ll commit crime in the cause of fighting for a noble cause.”
The cost of the strike
The PSA plans to bring the country to a standstill. Its 235 000 members are part of Home Affairs offices, transport departments, and border posts. The distributions in these sectors could have huge implications on the already failing economy. Maleka understands the implications of the strike but believes public servants have reached their limit and are struggling to survive.
“Public servants are not able to afford anything. We have seen how the repo rate has gone up. Most of them, their houses have been repossessed. Their cars repossessed. Unable to pay their loans. We hope government come to their senses that you can’t have unhappy police officers, nurse or a teacher. At the time of being at work, they are not even sure how they are going to get home.”
Public servants don’t earn enough to buy their own houses but also don’t qualify for RDP houses. They are lost somewhere in the middle. This is another reason the strike is needed and the PSA demands need to be met, added Maleka.
The protest will not include essential workers
While there is a fear that essential public services will not be available, Maleka stressed this will not be the case. Public servants whose work constitutes essential services will not be allowed to participate in any strike. However, they can use their lunch time to picket and make their voices heard he added.
“We also not calling for essential services to strike. Nurses will not be striking because they are essential services like police. However, they got a full right during their lunch time to picket. To demonstrate I’m a nurse, I’m working but during lunch time they are welcomed to go out and demonstrate they are unhappy about their employer’s attitude. The PSA will also not block anyone or prevent anyone from going to work if they want to do so. We believe we are in a democratic country. People have got choices, their own rights and therefore will not stop anyone that is willing to go to work.”
The PSA will be handing a memorandum to the President and if within seven days a response is not given, they will intensify their protest and actions. Maleka made it clear they will not accept anything lower than a 6.5% increase as inflation is expected to hit between 8-10% by the end of the year.