Workers must consider sacrificing their wage increase for the next three years to give the South African economy the opportunity to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
This was the “controversial suggestion” of Boitomelo Moloi, Deputy-Minister of the Department of Employment and Labour, when she addressed the FEDUSA 2021 Leadership and Collective Bargaining Conference in Isando, Johannesburg, today.
“Organised Labour must ask what workers are contributing to help the negative South African economy where there was no growth in job creation.
“I know it is controversial but why are workers not considering sacrificing wage increases for the next three years to grow the economy? Will we rather take an increase instead of preventing businesses shutting down?” Moloi asked the conference delegates.
According to her workers have an obligation to assist Government in making sure that everyone has a job.
She responded to a question of Steve Harris, General Secretary of the United National Transport Union (UNTU). UNTU is affiliated to FEDUSA.
UNTU wage negotiations for 2021 for Transnet employees is scheduled to start on 6 April 2021.
According to Harris it cannot be expected of Organised Labour to pay this high price as requested whilst so much corruption has taken place in state departments and semi state enterprises and continues without any arrests or convictions to date.
“Furthermore if we look at the various price hikes of food, electricity and fuel just to name a few it is unthinkable that the Deputy-Minister could even expect such from Labour.”
Harris wanted to know from Moloi why the Department allows state-owned enterprises like Transnet to variate from the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) when Organised Labour did not agree to it.
Harris says most Transnet employees who are forced to work overtime to allow the employer to operate a 24/7 operation, earn less when they work overtime than what they do for a normal hour of work.
“They are forced to work outside the terms of the BCEA, but when it comes to the payment of overtime, the employer keeps to the R211 596.30 per annum overtime threshold.
“The threshold increase from 1 March 2021 is totally insufficient to address this injustice,” says Harris.
UNTU asked the Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi and his Deputy to seriously reconsider the amount. Moloi took note.
She denied that the Department is toothless.
According to Moloi, herself and the Minister is concerned about recent budget cuts to the Department by National Treasury.
She was challenged on why the Department allowed the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) budget being cut by R270 million.
The budget cuts will hamper the overburdened CCMA even more to protect vulnerable workers. It will result in the CCMA being inefficient to promote labour stability, social justice and job security and give effect to the Constitutional rights of workers, says Harris.
“This is very painful as it boils down to a situation of the survival of the fittest. There is no political strategy to penalise the CCMA. When National Treasury cuts budgets, it cuts across the board.
“The situation of the CCMA is of great concern to the Minister and me and we will talk to the President (Cyril Ramaphosa) on this matter as we can’t compromise,” says Moloi.
Issued on behalf of UNTU by Sonja Carstens, UNTU Media, Liaison and Communication Officer. For UNTU press statements e-mail Carstens at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 082 463 6808.