EDITORIAL | By asking for public help, Mchunu is passing the buck
Public service and administration minister needs to man up and make tough decisions in civil servant wage negotiations
Butter could not melt in Senzo Mchunu’s mouth on Tuesday when he defended his move to ask the public for help in resolving the government’s deadlock with civil servant unions. “I don’t think we should be overwhelmed by emotions that we go through from time to time,” the public service and administration minister told TimesLIVE (https://www.timeslive.co.za/politics/2021-05-11-nothing-wrong-with-asking-for-public-input-in-wage-dispute-senzo-mchunu/), as if there was nothing unusual about a government asking its citizens for advice on salary negotiations.
About two weeks ago, Mchunu said his department would accept proposals from citizens, professionals and civil organisations on how to resolve the impasse. The government has offered public servants a 0% increase for the 2021/2022 financial year. Unions are demanding a salary increase equal to consumer inflation, plus another four percentage points, which roughly translates into a raise of 7%. These are the same unions that have dragged the government to the Constitutional Court after it reneged on its last three-year wage agreement, a matter that will only be heard in August. When Mchunu describes the salary talks as the “most difficult negotiations between government and organised labour the country has ever faced”, he is not exaggerating.
He rightly points out that the state of our economy is dire, we are heading towards a “fiscal cliff”, Covid-19 has complicated matters, the public service space needs to go undergo drastic changes and the looming court action is yet to provide clarity on the outcome of past wage negotiations. ..