The National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) is planning to go ahead with a protest march against planned cuts to the bloated public wage bill, despite the ban on large gatherings due to the urgent health threat posed by the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak.
This march, planned for 30 March, will put the lives of thousands of South Africans at risk.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) will write to the Minister of public service and administration, Senzo Mchunu, calling on him to instruct Nehawu to cancel this march.
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.
Nehawu is threatening to endanger the lives of not only its workers and members, who will be forced to participate in the protest but also the lives of the broader South African public. Coronavirus is highly contagious, and even one infection resulting from the Nehawu march can spread like wildfire.
It is clear that elements of the trade union movement in South Africa do not care about the wellbeing of workers or about the broader health and prosperity of our country. Instead, Nehawu appears hellbent on defending the salaries of the 29 000 millionaire managers in the public service and the resultant bloated public wage bill – even at the potential cost of fanning the flames of the coronavirus.
While Nehawu fights to protect privileged millionaire managers and overpaid administrators in the public sector, thousands of businesses and workers in the private sector face the very real threat of an economic catastrophe.
Ironically, one of the key reasons why the government is unable to protect the economy from the coronavirus is because it has for years blown billions on unaffordable public sector wages for millionaire cadres. As a result, there is no money left with which to fight the virus outbreak and protect our economy.
It is time to end the reckless extortion of unions like Nehawu. The DA reiterates our call on government to freeze the salaries of all managers and administrators in the public service for three years, reduce the number of millionaire managers by a third, and protect inflation-linked increases for doctors and nurses. This will save R168 billion that must be urgently used to fight back against the coronavirus.
If we are to survive the disastrous health and economic consequences of Covid-19, we must choose our country over the selfish and narrow political interests of the likes of Nehawu.