The 230,000-member Public Service Association has rejoined the Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa) in a move that is set to change the labour landscape.  This brings Fedusa’s total claimed membership to 700,000, giving the organisation a major boost in the light of the threat new labour federation the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) poses.  The development also has implications for the balance of power in the Public Service Co-ordinated Bargaining Council (PSCBC), where government employees’ pay and working conditions are negotiated.  Public sector pay talks are expected to begin later in 2017 before the current three-year agreement lapses at the end of the current financial year.  Cosatu unions are in the majority at the PSCBC, but Fedusa says it is confident that, taking independent unions into account, this latest development could put it on par with the ANC ally.

Public Service Association and Fedusa alliance to change labour landscape: Theto Mahlakoana today in BusinessLive published by Business Day [subscription required]

Further excerpts

Labour Analyst Mamokgethi Molopyane said that this was a “death blow” for Cosatu, which was dominated by the public sector unions.

“It could therefore render Cosatu insignificant and no longer an influential player.

“I think that’s because if it does not have the numbers required and is no longer the biggest block in the PSCBC, even with the majority of its unions being in the public sector, it might as well accept defeat and come up with ways of how it will resuscitate itself,” Molopyane said.

Fedusa general secretary Dennis George said he was pleased that his organisation would be bringing together “a very large majority of 1.3-million workers in the public sector ahead of negotiations for the next three -year agreement”.

He said this was particularly important in the light of cost-of-living pressures workers faced.

“The timing of this is important because we’ve [SA] been downgraded to junk status now and that is going to put a huge amount of pressure on all working people, while the state is going to face a huge amount of pressure because the working people have been carrying a heavy burden of paying tax in this country.”

This year’s round of negotiations was already expected to be tough, given the government’s concern about the size of the wage bill in relation to the overall budget, while workers will also be demanding pay rises in line with the higher cost of living.

Cosatu has always relied on its alliance relationship with the governing ANC to influence employers, often depending on political solutions when negotiations deadlocked.

George said they wanted to restore ethics in the public service, particularly in the light of the political environment.

“We also want to see to it that workers feel protected and stand up against rogue politicians who want to force them to doing things not required from public service.

“Cosatu likes to sometimes create the impression that they can get better deals through their affiliation with the ANC, and they can persuade ministers to do this and that, but we know that does not happen”.