Public servants demand govt honour 2018 wage increase agreement

Cynthia Seopa, an immigration official at Home Affairs, said government had taken food out of their children’s mouths.

Workers affiliated to different trade unions marched from Burgerspark to the Treasury in Pretoria on 7 October 2020. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

PRETORIA – South Africa’s main four federations have managed to show that there is strength in numbers, taking to the country’s streets in all major cities to protest against many issues linked to our economic trajectory and gender-based violence and femicide.

In a historic national strike, Cosatu, Fedusa, Nactu and Saftu members joined the Section 77 action in their numbers despite the threat of COVID-19, telling government that they had had enough of corruption and failure to revive the economy and create jobs.

Many of the workers on the streets on Wednesday were public servants who expressed distress at having to cope with their existing salaries despite the increased cost of living, even though the state agreed to hike their wages by up to 5.4% this year, but then reneged on the agreement.

GALLERY: Workers take to the streets in national strike

Cynthia Seopa, an immigration official at Home Affairs, said government had taken food out of their children’s mouths.

She told Eyewitness News that workers in her salary band earned as little as R8,000, making it hard to cope with increased transport and food costs.

She had been waiting eagerly for the wage increase that government agreed to with labour in 2018.

However, if Treasury has its way, she may have to remain on the same salary level for the next three years as there are no plans to increase public servants’ wages.

“We are tired, we want our money. We want decent working environments.”

However, not all workers heeded the call to stay away from work or join the protests.

A cleaning service employee in Pretoria, Sylvester Shabangu, said while he wanted to join the protests, he could not afford to forego a day’s wages as the no-work no-pay rule applied.

“If I could join them, I would be there right now.”

It is too early to tell whether the national strike had any meaningful impact on the economy.

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