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4.7% increase undermines workers and collective bargaining, says POPCRU

The Police and Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) has rejected the 4.7% public service wage increase announced by the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) as insufficient, warning that the union is prepared to mobilise its members to march to Pretoria with its salary demands.


POPCRU refused to sign the current two-year public sector wage agreement in 2023, which guaranteed an inflation-linked increase for 2024/2025. But POPCRU President Thulani Ngwenya notes that the proposed 4.7% increase falls far below inflation, which has remained persistently high, reaching 5.6% in February this year.


“This salary increment demonstrates government’s arrogance towards the public service. It is not enough to better the lives of the working class and public servants, or even to keep up with rising costs of living. As a result, the feedback we have received on this increase is very negative, especially after five years of wage freezes and below-inflation salary increases,” he states.


“We did not believe the lie that this was the best deal government could offer as employers, which is why we refused to sign the agreement. And it’s clear now that this has been one of the worst deals for public servants yet, matched only by the non-implementation of the last leg of the 2018 wage agreement.


“This latest increase is an insult to our members who are struggling to make ends meet, yet are expected to serve on the frontlines of the fight against crime. Government has made it clear to workers that you are on your own. To those who told us that it was best to sign the two-year agreement, we warn that now is the time to defend the working class and stand with workers – nothing more, nothing less.”


Public servant salaries ‘parked’ for five years


Dissatisfaction with public wages began in 2020 when government reneged on the third leg of its 2018 Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) Resolution agreement, which promised public servants increases of up to 1% above inflation for the 2020/2021 year.


In 2021, workers were instead given a non-pensionable cash allowance of between R1,220 and R1,695 per month. The allowance functioned as an add-on to salaries, making it subject to taxation, and did not account for changes in the cost of living or inflation, eroding workers’ purchasing power. According to POPCRU, another unintended consequence has been that pension funds have remained virtually stagnant ever since.


POPCRU subsequently embarked on a national march in September 2022 to demand the implementation of the third leg of the 2018 agreement, the reversal of the unilateral implementation of a meagre 3% wage hike for 2022/2023, and an end to austerity measures.


Relevance of past alliances called into question


Despite these concerns, POPCRU, together with other COSATU affiliates, agreed to a resolution to support the ANC last year as part of its tripartite alliance allegiances. However, POPCRU members have expressed increasing doubt that government is responsive to their needs, and following this latest salary announcement, are ready to mobilise.


“As POPCRU, we are on the side of workers. Our loyalty remains with our members. We will fight to protect the hard-earned gains made during the democratic revolution, and we are willing to march to Pretoria if necessary to ensure our members’ voices are heard. We are not asking for above-inflation wage increases – we are demanding,” says Ngwenya.


He adds that while the elections are just a few short weeks away, workers have been largely overlooked by all political parties.


“Currently, it appears that the concerns of workers are being disregarded, with none of the political parties addressing their rights in their campaigns or manifestos. This presents a challenging situation for us, as we are citizens of the country first, and public servants second.


“But no matter who is elected in May, workers will still be there beyond the elections. If government, as the employer, refuses to heed our calls, then we will make them listen. Workers are not being supported or even considered. So we must stand up, unite, and fight, or be willing to submit. Pretoria siyeza sisendleleni!


Additionally, POPCRU has issued a challenge to the Minister of Public Service and Administration Noxolo Kiviet to join Ngwenya in a live television debate.


“We wish to ask the Minister what government is doing for its workers, especially police, traffic, and correctional services, and how our members’ concerns will be addressed.


“For example, engagements over housing have reached a stand-still, there is ongoing uncertainty over the impact of the two-pot retirement system and increased taxes on our members’ savings, and our members can’t afford tertiary education for their children.


“Meanwhile, our traffic officers still complain that they are not being promoted, they do not have uniforms or tools of the trade, and they are not being paid overtime. Our police officers are responsible for the safety of South Africa and place their lives at risk daily but get snubbed during increase conversations. So, we demand to know how these issues will be resolved and what plans are being made to ensure that government runs proper administrations,” Ngwenya concludes.

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