South Africa: Nehawu Statement of the 6th Plenary Session of Its 11th National Executive Committee

press release

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union [NEHAWU] convened its 6th plenary session of National Executive Committee [NEC] meeting of the 11th National Congress on the 30th - 31st October 2020. The NEC considered the international context, national political and socio-economic situations including organisational assessment in particular matters affecting our members and the working class in general.

The NEC meeting took place while the system of capitalism is busy lurching from one crises to the other. World economies are facing severe contractions with very minimal growth. In South Africa over half [55.5%] of our population lives in poverty and 9 out of 10 black people are poor. The outbreak of the novel Coronavirus has further exposed the fact that capitalism is unable to sustain itself both systematically and structurally. Capitalism as a system has ran its course and this further solidifies the case for the advancement of a socialist cause. The current crises of capitalism prompts the working class to unite and advance towards the attainment of socialism as an alternative to the crises ridden system of capitalism. In this regard, NEHAWU will continue to mobilise all its members and workers under the banner of socialism and for the total collapse of the draconian system of capitalism.

The meeting also took place two days after the delivery of the 2020/21 Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement by the Minister of Finance, Mr Tito Mboweni. The MTBPS was tabled in a context of a worst post-apartheid economic crisis that expresses itself in high levels of unemployment, poverty, deepening social inequalities, a stagnant economy and declining output including deindustrialization which are further exacerbated by the outbreak of COVID-19. Disappointingly, once again the African National Congress [ANC] led government has failed to present a budget that is pro-poor and working class in orientation which is the core electoral base of the ANC and a strategic pillar that kept the movement going.

With each budget that is presented by the Minister we observe a further shift from the commitments made by the ANC 2019 National General Elections Manifesto and the outcomes of the 54th National Conference. Furthermore, we note the deafening silence and lack of appetite from the leadership of the ANC in reigning in Mr Mboweni. His arrogance mixed with his constant desire to please rating agencies has led to the national union to take a decision to call for his removal. As NEHAWU, we hold a strong view that Mr Mboweni is not the right person to help us to arrest and turn-around the expanding rate of unemployment, deepening inequalities and abject poverty that we are currently facing as a country. He has proven beyond reasonable double that he is anti-workers and cares less about the prosperity of the country.

Since 2015 Treasury has been prioritising reducing the public debt at the expense of economic growth and this approach has achieved nothing but further plunging our society into the current dire situation we find ourselves in as a country. Austerity measures have dismally failed to avert the growth of the public-debt but has managed to slow down economic activity and create stagnation. Our firm belief is that the current leadership of Treasury and its orientation will not assist the country in fighting decisively the triple challenges.

For a very long time the Minister has been threatening to cut the size of the public service and implement a wage freeze. Currently, Mr Mboweni and National Treasury are busy with reversing the hard-won gains of workers while peeing on collective bargaining. They are intending to cut R60 billion in 2021/22, R90 billion in 2022/23 and R150 billion in 2023/24 from the public sector wage bill and they have already started with the R37 billion from the last leg of the 2018 wage agreement. NEHAWU will never accept a wage freeze on behalf of its members and workers. Furthermore, we condemn the misleading statement by Mr Mboweni that engagements are taking place creating an impression that we agree with the wage freeze or the non-implementation of salary increases for the current financial year. We will never enter into any discussions that seeks to worsen the terms and conditions of work of our members and the working class in general nor negotiate a signed collective agreement. Moreover, it should be highlighted that government is still in court trying to declare the last leg of the PSCBC Resolution 1 of 2018 unconstitutional therefore making it null and void having implemented first and second legs from 2018 and 2019.

The national union will work with the Joint Mandating Committee [JMC] which comprises of the Congress of South African Trade Unions [COSATU] public sector unions to pursue the fight against government especially on the following issues:

· Implementation of clause 3.3 of the PSCBC Resolution 1 of 2018

· The impact of Covid-19 and appreciation of the essential service workers who worked throughout the lockdown without receiving anything

· The National Treasury document on freezing salary increases for four years.

Furthermore, NEHAWU will convene a National Day of Action which will be in the form of marches to be directed to both the Union Building and National Parliament on the 26th November 2020 aimed at physically collecting our money as Public Servants from Tito and to raise sharply the issue of the onslaught on collective bargaining, austerity measures and neoliberal policies by National Treasury and the intended wage freeze.

Our own democratically elected government is leading the onslaught on collective bargaining and reneging on binding collective agreements. As a result, we have started to observe other employers who are starting to dig in their heels in implementing collective bargaining agreements because they are taking a cue from government. The fight to defend collective bargain will be directed to government which has been beating the drums of war for a very long while. This takes place while government is failing to decisively deal with the scourge of corruption and the plundering of state resources by politically connected individuals. Instead, government continues to bailout shambolically managed SOEs which are also used as cash cows by greedy and corrupt elements.

The outbreak of the coronavirus has caused unprecedented damages to the economy coupled with an unacceptable number of deaths, job losses, and loss of personal income of millions of our people. Our members and workers have been at the forefront of gallantly fighting the invisible enemy mostly while understaffed, with no working tools or medication and under life threatening working conditions perpetuated by reckless and lethargic employers. The move to Alert level 1 of the lockdown does not mean the virus is gone and our members are free from danger. In this regard, we will intensify our call for the filling of all vacant funded posts, permanent absorption of Community Healthcare Workers [CHW], and the payment of a danger allowance or a moral incentive for frontline workers including the payment of salary increases which were due on the 1st April 2020.

On the 15th October 2020 President Ramaphosa announced the employment of a mere 6000 community health workers and nursing assistants over the next three years, whereas in the 2019 elections manifesto, the ANC committed itself to "absorb 50,000+ community health care workers in the public service". The ANC also undertook that "in 5 years, the number of community health workers will be doubled and deployed in our villages, townships and informal settlements". However, these workers are still not permanently employed, they continue to earn peanuts while working with no tools. In this regard, NEHAWU is forging ahead with the national strike of Community Healthcare Workers which is scheduled to start on the 11th November 2020 across the country.

The NEC noted that the struggle by the national union for the protection of frontline workers gained serious international recognition. This prompts us to redouble our efforts and fight even harder to defend workers' rights including the right to safe working conditions, decent salaries and the right to strike. NEHAWU will continue to be a beacon of hope and a shield for workers against exploitative and reckless employers whose sole mandate is profit maximisation.

The meeting also expressed its strong support of the Nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize of the Cuban Henry Reeve medical brigade for its unparalleled internationalism. "Doctors not bombs" is a fitting tribute of socialist inspired values espoused by Cuba, in stark contradiction with US imperialist aggressors. The meeting congratulated the World Federation of Trade Unions [WFTU] on its 75th anniversary and committed itself to mobilise all workers under its banner as a champion of workers interest across the globe.

The national union will convene an urgent political commission to discuss the current trajectory of the National Democratic Revolution [NDR] and the current state of the Alliance. The NEC meeting unanimously underscored the fact that the unity of NEHAWU remains sacrosanct and its cohesion paramount. The union of Bheki Mkhize and Yure Mdyogolo has to remain ideological sound and continue to be a fighting red union that is preoccupied with fighting for its members and workers against the system of capitalism which is hell-bent on exploiting the masses for the benefit of a few elites.

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