The LGEP signed on to the following statement issued in support of the public sector workers' industrial action
Public sector strike raises need for new approach to development and service delivery
SECTION27 and the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) support the right of public sector workers to take industrial action to enforce their demand for a reasonable salary increase and other demands related to their conditions of employment. Quality service delivery depends on a fairly remunerated, motivated and accountable public service.
We support the demand for a housing allowance that will make it possible for public servants to qualify for bonds and that will free access to RDP housing for the unemployed and poorest in our society.
However a strike will be unfortunate and costly to our economy and society. It will disrupt services, undermine education and health services and cause more demoralisation and polarisation in our communities.
In this context, we call on the government to improve its offer in recognition of the importance of the public service to delivery of social rights. We also call for an urgent and final agreement on the minimum level of services that must be provided by essential service workers. It is a violation of the right to fair labour practices to impose a total ban on strike action for such workers, which is effectively the case in the absence of such an agreement.
However, we believe the dispute raises deeper issues which, if properly taken into account by the government – and particularly the Treasury -- in policy making, implementation and budgetary allocations, should prevent this type of conflict from arising.
The Constitution is our supreme law. It states that it binds the legislature, the executive and all organs of state. The state is instructed to promote and fulfil the rights it contains.
Many, if not all, of the rights in our Bill of Rights depend upon an efficient, properly staffed and well motivated public service. For example, the rights to freedom and security of the person require a motivated and efficient police force. But, in particular, it will be impossible to follow the Constitution’s instruction to ‘progressively realise’ rights to housing, health and education without an efficient public service.
The Constitution says the state must realise these rights ‘within its available resources’.
The question the strike raises – and which is not being honestly answered - is what resources are available? Why is it that billions of Rand were made available for the World Cup because it was considered politically important, but are not for the staffing of basic services? Why are hundreds of millions of Rand available for expensive cars and perks for Ministers and senior members of government, but not for teachers or nurses salaries?
As far back as 2001, the Constitutional Court has ruled that the law requires that in order to comply with its duties towards socio-economic rights government must have a plan capable of their realisation. No plan is capable of realisation without sufficient human resources. In our country human resources are available in abundance, but they are either unemployed or underpaid. Under-paying and under-staffing our public service undermines the Constitution.
This must change.
These questions demonstrate the need for civil society, and social justice organisations in particular, to demand a meaningful engagement with the government during the budgetary process and to interrogate executive decisions against the yardstick of whether -- or not -- they will help to achieve the Constitution’s promises to our people.
Finally, we call on COSATU to work more closely with civil society to assist with and provide oversight of delivery, ensure accountability and honesty within the public service. Poor service and contempt for the poor by some civil servants undermines the dignity and reputation of all civil servants.