Letter to the Minister of Public Service and Administration and the Secretary General of Cosatu regarding "Outcry by public servants - salary deductions, 2007 strike" from the UDM President (9 July 2008)

Dear Madam, dear Sir

The above-mentioned strike is well documented.

I write this letter in response to a number of appeals made by public servants to United Democratic Movement (UDM) public representatives during their constituency work period and I venture to say that what I am going to highlight has been brought to your attention and public representatives of other political parties, including your party, the African National Congress (ANC). Indeed the UDM was one of the voices prior to the strike which called for an amicable solution, but it seems that egos on both sides of the dispute outweighed common sense.

The individual public servants expressed their serious concerns, calling upon the UDM to intervene and resolve their plight caused by the Cosatu strike which led to heavy salary deductions being made.

The UDM is fully aware that the government dubbed the strike as illegal, hence the deductions.

These workers are now unable to service their debts. This has also affected their families. I am sure you have seen in the media that the Banks and Micro Lenders have rejected scores of these workers in granting them relief funding. This has further aggravated their plight for funds.

After having received these appeals the UDM is obliged to bring them to your attention, and make the following suggestions:

a. That Cosatu, as a party to the decision taken to strike, fully knowing that it was illegal to do so, should compensate these employees. It is the leadership of Cosatu which must show concern about the plight of these employees. Cosatu's leadership cannot sit idly in their posh offices, enjoying the monthly subscriptions from these employees and do nothing to assist them. The Cosatu leadership must show some kind of responsibility.

b. That Government should seriously consider, on humanitarian grounds, refund of the monies deducted based on the fact that government finally agreed that these employees are under-paid. This agreement by Government presupposes acceptance of your failure to address the salary disparities retrospectively.

The truth of the matter is that the country has suffered serious skills flight, especially in the fields of teaching, medicine, nursing, security, military, middle management in the civil service in general, as well as all the technical fields.

The most important thing is that conditions of service should be revisited with a view to ensuring that a win-win situation prevails and no stakeholder should boast of defeating the other.

As alliance partners Cosatu and the ANC should address this issue because you have been given a mandate to govern this country. If you do not address this it would appear that there will be incessant strikes which could lead to even higher levels of poor service delivery and corruption. Incidents like alleged police involvement in crimes such as bombing of ATM's, robbing businesses, etc should serve as a warning that there is need for you to seriously look at the broader spectrum of the conditions of service in the whole public service.

A work-study (commission) - along the same lines as the commission chaired by Judge Moseneke - will have to be set up for this purpose as a matter of extreme urgency, especially in the light of soaring prices in our economy.

You should also recognise that government employees make a significant contribution in supporting our economy through income tax, pensions and their significant buying power. Indeed, the salaries earned by many civil servants support not only their immediate households but also extended families.

Kindly advise.
Bantu Holomisa, MP
President: United Democratic Movement

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