Unions defeated as ConCourt rules for government on wage agreement

Trade unions in the public sector have been hit hard in the legal battle over the 2018 collective labor agreement.

The Constitutional Court (ConCourt) confirmed the decision of the Labor Court on Monday, and turned down leave of the trade unions to appeal, without an order to pay costs.

Wage agreement

The unions had filed an appeal with the ConCourt seeking an order that would force the government to uphold the three-year collective bargaining agreement.

This is after the labor court ruled in favor of the government in December 2020.

The government implemented pay increases for civil servants in 2018/2019 and 2019/2020, but was unable to do so in 2020/2021 due to lack of funding.

This led to the unions approaching the labor court, which found that the costs of the collective labor agreement could not be covered exclusively from the budget of the Minister of the Civil Service.

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The court also ruled that Treasury has not made a written commitment to guarantee additional funding and that no further arrangements have been made by other departments or agencies.

Concerns were also raised that the minister failed to follow regulations 78 and 79 of the Civil Service Ordinance, which require the department to meet tax requirements and National Treasury approval.

Therefore, the labor court declared the enforcement of the last year of the three-year agreement illegal because it violated certain parts of the constitution, and rejected the unions’ request.

ConCourt pronunciation

In a unanimous decision, the ConCourt ruled in favor of the government, on the ground that the wage agreement was unlawful.

“The court noted that Ordinances 78(2) and 79(c) created facts of jurisdiction that must exist before the Minister exercises the power to negotiate and enter into collective agreements on behalf of the State, failing which the Minister acts without legal authority. .

“The court held that the jurisdictional facts were not present and that failure to comply with the requirements of Regulations 78 and 79 rendered the resulting collective agreement between the state and the unions invalid and illegal and thus unenforceable,” the supreme court ruled.

The ConCourt said the government did not have to abide by the 2018 three-year agreement, which would have taxed the state’s wallet if the agreement were mandatory.

READ MORE: Officials ‘ready for action’ over pay hike, says Nehawu

“Basically, if clause 3.3 were enforced, the amount available for service in all its forms would be significantly reduced.

“In this regard, the state has emphasized the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on its financial resources, including the need to protect the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable people exposed to the dire effects of the pandemic.

“In the current economic and health situation facing the country, it would not be just and equitable to require the state to make good on its promised illegal salary increases at the expense of much more pressing needs affecting the country,” the verdict reads. .

One of the applicants in the legal battle, the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) said the union was disappointed with the ConCourt’s verdict.

“We are not shocked that we still live in a capitalist society. The courts represent the ruling class.

“We are disappointed [at the ruling]† We had done everything and followed the rules during the negotiations and it is disappointing to get this kind of judgment,” Nehawu Secretary General Zola Saphetha said. Power987 on Monday.

READ MORE: Budget proposes three-year pay freeze in public sector

The National Professional Teachers Organization of South Africa (Naptosa) also expressed its disappointment with the verdict.

“This is a sad day not only for officials, but also for the negotiating collective as a whole,” said Naptosa director Basil Manuel. sowetanLIVE

Other unions involved in the case included the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru), Democratic Nursing Organization of South Africa (Denosa), Public Servants Association (PSA), the Health and Other Services Personnel Union of South Africa (Hospersa), the South African Teachers Union (SATU), the National Teachers Union (NATU), and the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (NUPSAW).

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