The Democratic Alliance (DA) has vowed to obtain a court interdict if the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) doesn’t back down from its planned strike action.
NEHAWU has threatened to mobilise its members to protest on 30 March against the government’s proposal to renegotiate a 2018 wage agreement.
On Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a ban on gatherings of more than 100 people to help curb the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
‘Groups of 99.9 people’
However, NEHAWU’s General Secretary Zola Saphetha told News24 on Wednesday that the protest march will go ahead.
“Truth of the matter is, we are going to march on the 30 March to Pretoria. We can maybe have 99.9 people in groups walking apart from each other and this will happen with our 20,000 members,” Sapetha said.
DA’s shadow minister for public service and administration, Dr Leon Schreiber, however said in a statement that the march would put the lives of South Africans at risk.
He said, “The DA will write to the Minister of Public Service and Administration, Senzo Mchunu, calling on him to instruct NEHAWU to cancel this march.”
‘Urgent court interdict’
“If the government fails to avert this potential disaster, the DA will obtain an urgent interdict against NEHAWU’s actions to protect the health and safety of thousands of public servants and other South Africans from exposure to the coronavirus,” Schreiber added.
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni first signalled the government’s intention to renegotiate the wage agreement in the Budget he presented in February.
According to the agreement, workers were expecting increases of between 5.5% and 4.5% from 1 April.
However, the government reportedly tabled an increase of consumer price inflation (CPI) plus 0.5% for level one employees at the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council this week. Some employees, such as level 12, would only get CPI increases.
The unions, including labour federation COSATU and the Public Servants Association, said they rejected these proposals outright.
The government proposes to reduce the wage bill by R37.8 billion in the 2020/2021 financial year, R54.9 billion in 2021/2022 and R67.5 billion in 2022/2023.