South Africa: Unions vs Government - There's a Battle Royal On the Horizon

South African coins.

Unions and government are coming closer to a full-blown confrontation over wages and the number of people employed in the public sector. It has the potential to be bloody, bruising and damaging to all.

To judge from the public comments of unionists and some leaders, a confrontation between public sector workers and government is imminent. This has been many years in the making, with successive finance ministers warning about the public sector wage bill for almost a decade.

In the past, unions held much political power in disputes of this nature. During Zuma years the ground has shifted significantly and this will have an impact on any future outcome.

This looming dispute has the potential to make or break the union movement - and it could also hold the keys to our future as a nation.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni's announcement in his Budget speech that the government will cut spending on the public sector wage bill by R160-billion over three years was politically dramatic. The night before, the government had sent a letter to unions telling them that it would not be able to afford the increase for workers, scheduled to start from 1 April 2020. This was despite...

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