Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni
Premium Journalist
2 minute read
22 Apr 2021
2:30 pm

Huge public sector strike action looms

Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni

South Africa’s 1.3 million public servants are faced with the ramifications of the worst economic climate since the 2008 global recession.

Samwu members can be seen protesting outside Tshwane House demanding a backlog of payments be made, 24 July 2020, Pretoria. Picture for illustration: Jacques Nelles


The Public Service Association (PSA) plans to go on strike nationally on Friday if government doesn’t adequately respond to its labour demands.

The union, which represents more than 235 000 public servants has reached an impasse with its employer over government’s “insulting” offer of a 0% wage increase for the 2021/2022 financial year.

Government faces pressure from across various sectors to make wage and working condition adjustments against the backdrop of a government drive to cut its public wage bill.

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South Africa’s 1.3 million public servants, however, are faced with the ramifications of the worst economic climate since the 2008 global recession.

Government is yet again throwing down the gauntlet on its decision to freeze salaries for public servants for the 2021/22 financial year, after it refused salary hikes last year.

Despite parliament-endorsed austerity resolutions in the mid-term budget and the 2021 budget, public servants are not planning on making their implementation easy.

PSA spokesman Reuben Maleka said it was unfair to freeze salaries in this economic climate.

“Workers deserve salary adjustments under the current economic conditions. As you know, from 1 April this year, the petrol price increased R1 a litre and Eskom raised their tariffs 15%. It’s unfortunate that one views it as an attack on government but it is not.”

ALSO READ: Strikes for hikes misguided now

Maleka said the union was making legal preparations and mobilising workers for a nationwide strike, should government fail to respond to its demands tomorrow.

“They are ready to start at any time. Our members have been saying since last year that they don’t see any other way forward with this but to simply down tools.”

Dick Forslund, economist and senior researcher at the Alternative Information Development Centre, said although unions have ample reason to demand a wage adjustment, organised labour has been weakened by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Further weakening the foundations of union demands is the political shift within the ANC and in parliament away from increased government spending, especially on wages.

“Public calls for less government spending and the political powers leaning towards austerity means that unions were currently weaker than at any other time.”

The SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) stopped short of downing tools on Wednesday due to Rand Water filing an urgent interdict application.

Samwu objected to the decision not to pay performance bonuses for last year.