Looming public sector strike will add to misery of cost of living crisis

Issued by Dr Michael Cardo MP – DA Shadow Minister for Employment and Labour
04 Nov 2022 in News

Please find attached a soundbite by Dr Michael Cardo MP.

The looming public sector strike comes at the worst possible time, as millions of South Africans struggle with a cost of living crisis and increasing socio-economic hardships.

The Minister of Employment and Labour, Thulas Nxesi (who is also the acting Minister of Public Service and Administration), must not be caught napping, as he was with the recent Transnet strike. The Minister must stand ready to invoke his powers in terms of Section 150 of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) in order to prevent a collapse in normal societal functioning.

Four unions in the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council have been given certificates of non-resolution after wage negotiations deadlocked. They are the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa), the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) and the Health & Other Services Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa).

We have seen in the past how members of these unions are ruthlessly prepared to put their own narrow interests ahead of the broader national interest. Meanwhile, the Public Servants Association is also poised to strike next week. Together, the unions represent over 800 000 public sector workers.

Such a massive strike will sow destruction and bring many public services – on which the man and woman in the street depend – to a halt. Coupled with the cost-of-living crisis, which is causing no end of economic pain for ordinary South Africans, the strike will throw a spoke in the wheel of our social order.

Section 150 of the LRA enables the Director of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) – on the Minister’s authorisation – to resolve a dispute through conciliation, whether or not that dispute has been referred to the Commission or a bargaining council. Section 150A empowers the Director to appoint an advisory arbitration panel, in the public interest, to make an advisory arbitration award in disputes.

One of the grounds on which this can be done is if a strike causes or exacerbates “an acute national…crisis affecting the conditions for the normal social and economic functioning of the…society”. The threatened public sector strike more than meets this criterion.

Minister Nxesi must not be scared to tread on the toes of his trade union comrades. He should be prepared to invoke Section 150 of the LRA to its full effect, and avert another full-blown crisis.