President Cyril Ramaphosa will face the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) for the first time on Monday since the Budget speech, which the trade union federation described as a declaration of war on workers.
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni last week proposed that the public sector wage bill be slashed by R160 billion over the next three years. This would mean that the government nullifies its three-year wage agreement with labour for public sector employees, but Cosatu is prepared to fight in court.
Ramaphosa was expected to meet with business and labour under the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac). The meeting takes place every month but Monday’s sitting was expected to be a little tense.
Cosatu is expected to ask the president to account to Nedlac on government’s proposal to step out of the three-year agreement.
“We view it as an act of extremely bad faith to the engagement with labour on the wage bill… to simply say you’re withdrawing on the agreement that is going to take effect in a month’s time,” said Cosatu’s parliamentary coordinator Matthew Parks.
If the trade union federation is not satisfied with the president’s answers, the leadership would have another opportunity to raise its concerns at the ANC’s national working committee meeting, which would also take place on Monday.
The ANC’s stance on state-owned entities like South African Airways was likely to take centre stage as the governing party’s leaders have spoken with different voices on the airline’s fate.