Public servants' unions go to labour court over salary adjustments

05 June 2020 - 15:42 By Nomahlubi Jordaan
Unions representing public servants plan to take government to court over salary increases.
Unions representing public servants plan to take government to court over salary increases.

Unions representing public servants have approached the labour court seeking an order declaring the government to be in breach of a resolution the parties took on salary adjustments. 

According to the unions, the parties had agreed to adjustments for all public servants on salary levels 1 to 12 effective from April 1 2018.

The unions represented in the legal challenge are the Public Servants' Association (PSA), the National Professional Teachers' Organisation of SA, Health and Other Personnel Trade Union of SA, South African Teachers' Union and the National Teachers' Union.

The respondents include the ministers of public service and administration, basic education, justice and correctional services, police, finance and the national director of public prosecutions.

The unions said the resolution reached by the parties was divided into three clauses spelling out the percentage increase that would be given, according to salary level. 

“These clauses became the terms of individual employment contracts of the applicants’ members as well as all members of all the trade union parties to the council,” said an affidavit from Leon Gilbert, acting manager of the PSA.

He said the salary adjustments provided for in two of the clauses were implemented and paid to all public service employees from April 2018 and April 2019.

Gilbert said the unions sent a letter to the DPSA in March 2020 requesting it to announce the projected consumer price index (CPI) under the third clause of the resolution.

The department, according to the unions, said the projected CPI would be 4.4% but indicated that implementing the clause was not affordable.

“The trade union parties rejected the proposal for engagement and a review [of the third clause]. The trade union parties insisted that it be implemented.”

The union said the DPSA then proposed that employees at levels 1-8 receive a CPI increase of 4.4%.

“The DPSA proposed that the parties agree that no salary adjustment at all be made for the 2020/2021 financial year for employees at levels 9 and higher."

The unions said no employees received a salary increase under the third clause.

“I stress there is no dispute between the parties as to the interpretation and application of clause 3.3 of resolution 1 of 2018. The parties all agree the projected CPI is 4.4% and that clause 3.3 requires the following salary adjustments to be applied to the following employees: levels 1-7, 5.4%; levels 8-10, 4.9%, and levels 11-12, 4.4%,” Gilbert said.

He said there had been no issues about the implementation of salary adjustments provided for in clauses 3.1 and 3.2.

“The applicants’ members have a contractual right to have their salaries increased in the amount set out. The first to fifth respondents are frustrating that right and are in breach of the contracts of employment of the applicants’ members,” Gilbert said.