Don't blame workers for fiscal crisis – Cosatu

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni.
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni.
Image: Esa Alexander

Labour federation Cosatu has accused finance minister Tito Mboweni of blaming government workers for the "fiscal crisis" after he singled out the public sector wage bill as the biggest risk facing the public purse.

Reacting to Mboweni's Medium Term Budget Policy Statement‚ Cosatu's Matthew Parks said it was "provocative" for Mboweni to blame workers' demands for pressures facing the national budget.

Government is spending more than R500-billion on the salaries of civil servants‚ wage increases for the next three years are R30-billion above budget and Mboweni is not setting aside any money for 2019 wage negotiations.

"It is unfortunate and in fact provocative for the minister to want to blame workers for the fiscal crisis. It is not workers who looted Eskom‚ built Nkandla‚ sent money to Dubai. Yet now we hear government complaining about nurses‚ teachers‚ police officers ... wanting to earn a living wage.

"We do not hear government complaining about the R2.4-million that ministers earn or the millions we spend flying their wives overseas. We do not hear government announce when it will reduce the ballooning cabinet head count. We do not hear government say they are imposing a freeze on the salaries of SOE CEOs and management. We heard nothing about how they will reduce the massive wage gap in the public sector."

Mboweni did‚ however‚ address the issue of the bloated cabinet at an earlier media conference before presenting his MTBPS‚ saying it did not make economic‚ financial and political sense to have a national executive comprising of more than 70 ministers and deputy ministers.

Parks also blasted Mboweni for continuing to bail out SOEs such as SAA which had received previous cash injections despite repeatedly failing to improve their poor financial performance.

"We simply cannot afford to continue bailing them out. Neither can we afford to allow them to collapse. Yet besides changing boards and bailouts‚ we have yet to see a clear plan to sort the SOEs out. We have not seen comprehensive forensic audits. We have not seen stolen funds returned. We have not been told the looting has stopped. We have not seen clear business plans to ensure the turnaround and survival of these SOEs‚" he said.

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