The Labour Appeal Court has dismissed the application made by the public service unions to compel government to implement increases in public service wages for another year.
The South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) says they will head to the Constitutional Court to challenge this matter.
The government is wanting to cut costs seeing as public finances has deteriorated since the 2019 Budget due to lower growth and tax revenue, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and its restrictions. Thus, the reduction of the public service wage bill is seen as a key part in the government's plan to create an economic turnaround.
However, unions will not allow this to go forward as a three-year agreement was reached with them in 2018 to increase wages. They were promised wage increases from April 2020 of between 4,4% and 5,4%.
Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said the implementation of the full wage deal would have cost the government just over R30 billion. They believe that the economic setbacks caused by the Covid-19 pandemic was unanticipated however the government did not have the right to avoid its obligations “by relying on the change of circumstances”.
“The government’s grounds for being unable to afford the increases are primarily a result of events that occurred after the collective agreement was concluded and are therefore irrelevant,” argued Maluleke.
Sadtu said in a statement that the National Executive Committee believes that the court should have looked at alternatives put forward by the Labour such as the incremental implementation of the agreement.
Sadtu’s Nkosana Dolopi told Eyewitness News that the promised increase must be implemented.
“The national executive committee then resolved to work with other public sector unions to make sure that they take this matter further than the Labour Appeal Court. Because when you protect freedom of association, you also protect collective bargaining.”