Nehawu says it cannot comprehend logic behind proposed austerity measures when civil service is understaffed

The union says government needs to hire more employees. File picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

The union says government needs to hire more employees. File picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published Sep 8, 2023


The National Education, Health, and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu), the biggest labour union organising in the country’s civil service, says the proposed austerity by the National Treasury at a time when there are a lot of vacancies is not well thought out.

Nehawu, which is affiliated with the governing African National Congress (ANC) through the Confederation of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), says civil servants are already overworked and underpaid.

The union was responding to a late August memo from the national treasury to provinces, government departments, and State entities that they should freeze employing workers and suspend mega projects as the state is battling a cash crunch.

The National Treasury said the country's revenue collection efforts left a huge hole, which requires the aforesaid austerity measures.

In spite of the reasons advanced by the national treasury, Nehawu is unfazed, saying this is going to hamper service delivery.

"The directive on freezing employing personnel in the public service is indeed that stricter headcount management amidst a high vacancy rate and understaffing in the public service which contributes significantly in impeding service delivery.

"Our members and workers who are at the coalface of service delivery are overworked, and there is no improvement in pay and conditions of work.

"The Treasury finds absolutely nothing wrong with instructing departments to halt employing additional personnel in order to render quality public service to the nation," the union said in a statement on Friday.

By opposing the austerity measures, the labour union is joining Cosatu, the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), and the Budget Justice Coalition, which said this is going to be an economic setback and it will hit the poor hard.

In addition, Nehawu said it cannot find the logic behind this move and will oppose it.

"We cannot comprehend the logic of Treasury's directive on freezing the hiring new employees when the country is confronted with skyrocketing unemployment rate, poverty, and inequality.

"The decision goes against the need to strengthen the capacity of the state through the filling of vacancies in the public service to address the needs of our people. Equally, it is against the quest to build a capable and developmental state that intervenes to meet societal needs," it added.

According to the union, the national treasury must end the moratorium on vacancies in order to improve the capacity of the State to deliver quality public services.

"Lastly, we will continue our campaign against the implementation of austerity measures by the government and National Treasury in particular," the union vowed.

The Minister of Finance, Enoch Godongwana, is expected to give details about the proposed austerity measures in the next mid-term budget speech to be delivered in the coming weeks.

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