Nehawu, Solidarity take council to CCMA over wage disputes
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Pretoria - The National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) and the Solidarity Union have hauled the Agriculture Research Council (ARC) to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) over its refusal to increase salaries of workers in over two years.
The unions have accused the pubic service institution of undermining wage negotiations and turning a blind eye to the fate of the employees.
The two unions, which hold the majority of the employees’ membership in public service organisations, have refused to accept the 0% salary increase tabled by the ARC.
Speaking to the Pretoria News, Nehawu acting spokesperson Lwazi Nkolozi said they were heading to the CCMA for conciliation after the negotiations failed.
“We have been engaging the employer for a while now and they came back with nothing. So they must rest assured that we, as a union, will not be accepting anything that will put workers on the blackfoot and that undermines gains of the workers,” Nkolozi said.
He said they would fight with everything they have to see to it that workers are at the forefront.
"After the CCMA has responded to us, we will issue a statement as to the process that follows. But workers will be a priority,” he said.
On the other hand, the ARC is arguing that no increases are presently granted by any state structures and that it too will therefore not grant its employees increases.
The Solidarity Union echoed Nehawu’s sentiments, saying the ARC was acting in an indifferent way towards the fate of its employees by undermining wage negotiations.
The union’s deputy chief executive of the Mining, Agriculture and Chemical Sectors, Riaan Visser, said: “ARC employees have not received an increase in a number of years.
“It is absurd that these employees have to endure yet another year without an increase. While inflation, and thus also the cost of living, are on the increase, workers become poorer.
“The ARC has decided to maintain a 0% increase offer and flatly refuses to come to the table with any proposals or to shift its target. No attempt to reach consensus is even made.
“Such a stance can be regarded as nothing but malicious."
The union blamed poor governance for state institutions’ failure to increase salaries.
“The problem is no different from the ongoing problem that exists at every other state institution – poor governance and decision-making together with an unwillingness to act in a concerted manner and to ensure that the institution makes progress are also the order of the day here,” Visser said.
Meanwhile, according to an audit commissioned by the ARC, 62% of its employees are already looking for jobs elsewhere.
ARC spokesperson Mpho Ramosili said: “The ARC has been experiencing budget cuts for the past few years.
“However, management has been exploring a number of initiatives to increase income and remains committed to ensuring a great working environment and building on the sustainable future of all employees at the ARC.
“The wage negotiations are still ongoing and the ARC is committed to engaging in rational dialogue on wage negotiations to reach an agreement.”