SPEECHES: Speech by the Minister for the Public Service and Administration Ms Faith Muthambi, MP, at the sod turning ceremony of the Public Service Co-oridinating Bargaining Council, Centurion, Gauteng Province

Date: 3 May 2017

Vice-Chairpersons of the PSCBC, Mr Matthew "Oupa" Sebiloane and Mr Mphfariseni Phophi;

Chairperson of the COSATU JMC, President Mabhida;

The representative of the ILC, Mr Ivan Fredricks;

Presidents and General Secretaries of Trade Unions;

Senior Leadership of Government;

General Secretary of the PSCBC, Mr Frikkie De Bruin;

Distinguished guests

Allow us to express our profound appreciation to be invited to address this auspicious occasion of the sod turning of the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council’s new building site.

The historical context of today’s event can be traced as far back as 1997 when the visionary leadership from the founding parties of the Central Chamber, the National Negotiating Forum and the Education Labour Relations Council gave effect to the provisions of the then newly enacted Labour Relations Act, to establish the current Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council.

The PSCBC, with a Secretariat of three members, was then hosted within the offices of the Department of Education in Sophie De Bruyn Street, formally known as Schoeman Street, in the city centre of Tshwane.

As the institution matured and the staff compliment grew, there was a definite need to ensure the independence of the PSCBC is also demonstrated by operating in its own offices. The then General Secretary of the PSCBC, Ms Shamira Huluman, in her report to the Council in the year 2000, acknowledged that a major task ahead of the PSCBC was the finalisation of the permanent accommodation for the Council and the three newly established sector councils. A joint project team consisting of Executive Committee members was then established to manage the project.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

In the year 2000, the rent of office space for the PSCBC and the three Sector Council was in excess of two million rands (R2 000 000.00). By the end of the year 2000, Council signed a two-years lease agreement that ensured that the PSCBC and every Sector is housed in its own floor within a building in the current office park. The results of this new agreement was that rental costs went up.

The leadership of the Council was, however, always driven by the need for the Council to be self-sustainable. The continuous growth of the Secretariat and the always increasing cost of a rental costs, required them to become more proactive in managing the need.

In 2003, the parties to the PSCBC entered into PSCBC Resolution 5 of 2003, allowing for Sectors to levy their own funds for processes of collective bargaining and dispute resolution and as such provision of accommodation remained the responsibility of the PSCBC.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

In 2003, Council established a joint task team, as was required by PSCBC Resolution 5 of 2003, to consider the changing challenges of accommodation. The task team was mandated to investigate the acquisition of permanent accommodation.

The task team finalised its work in March 2004 and tabled to Council a recommendation that the option to develop a new building according to the specific needs of the public service bargaining councils, was the best option. Council did not agree to this option at that time but rather, opted to enter into a seven-years lease agreement with the then owners of the current office park.

As Council approached the end of the lease term, it was agreed that the rental option did not provide security of tenure, it did not allow for self-sustainability and economically it became unsustainable.

Once again, proactive leadership was needed to address the situation. Council considered various options to address the issue of accommodation. One of the options considered was to purchase the current office park at the end of the rental period. This would have made the best economical and business sense also considering that Council has been housed in the buildings now for more than 10 years and the street address became institutional with membership.

In considering the purchase, due consideration was to be given to future development and the vacant land to the east of the office park, where we are gathered this morning, became a viable option for consideration.

The PSCBC together with the PHSDSBC, first bought the current office park, with the PSCBC buying three of the five buildings. The cost for the purchase amounted to R14 364 000.00. This was financed by an 80% mortgage bond and 20% cash payment. Simultaneously, Council negotiated with the owners of the vacant land in order to purchase of first part and later all of the vacant land.

The proportional purchase of the vacant land allowed the PSCBC to acquire the 10 242 square metres, on a cash basis, therefore resulting in a debt free position with the purchase of the vacant land.

Council managed, through extreme financial diligence, to ensure additional payments made on the bond of the three buildings, reducing the bond payments from 10 years to 4 years and subsequently also paying the bond in full, therefore today, having debt free buildings. (Let us applause for this achievement).

These achievements placed the PSCBC in the ideal position to start the venture as they decided in 2004, that, the option to develop a new building according to the specific needs of the public service bargaining councils, was the best option.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

This PSCBC building, when completed, should therefore also recognise these struggles and be a symbol to all workers on the victories achieved. It should be a symbol of that struggle and a demonstration that the loss of life in achieving recognition of workers’ rights, was not in vain. It should also symbolise the continuous protection of the rights of the working class, especially the protection of these rights within the Public Service.

While we acknowledge that there are high levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality, the National Development Plan asserts that the public service is central to us achieving our objective of improving the lives of our people. We have to address and defeat the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality. We need to address the principles of radical economic transformation. We need to find the missing middle class.

To achieve this goal, the public service needs to play both a transformative and developmental role. It is for this reason that the public service needs to re-invent itself to pro-actively assume this important responsibility.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The PSCBC would also play an important part in allowing us to achieve this goal. This building should be the beacon of hope to provide for an environment that would be conducive for us to discuss, agree and disagree but ultimately to achieve this goal.

The Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council was established as a collective bargaining forum within the Public Service. We do, however, believe that your role stretches beyond this. Legislative prescripts governing the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council, create an independent institution whose main objective is to maintain sound labour relations in the public service.

For this reason, we regard you as a very strategic partner – ensuring that we achieve high levels of stability within the public service while transforming it into an effective and capable service delivery instrument.

We are all signatories to the Service Charter, a product of this institution, the PSCBC, which is a commitment by ourselves to provide better and more efficient services to all South Africans. The core of this commitment is to provide citizens with better services while also respecting them as human beings. At the end, it is about establishing a caring relationship built on trust between public servants and the citizens we work for.

We can only achieve this if we have a professional dedicated, highly skilled public service that is committed to serving the people of our country.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

As this event also signifies the celebration of the PSCBC 20th anniversary, we need to build on the pillars of democratisation, economic development, social justice and labour peace as identified by the PSCBC. We do hope in the design of your building, these pillars will find a prominent place of expression. These pillars are build on the basis of our Constitution and our enabling legislation on employment relations, namely, the Labour Relations Act, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and the Employment Equity Act.

This building should also be the basis we use to engage on in the ensuing year. We have various challenges ahead of us and would need to remain focused. We need to expedite the implementation of resolutions signed and entered into. We need to properly prepare and address issues on the protection of centralised collective bargaining through the pillars of democratisation, economic development, social justice and labour peace during the upcoming collective bargaining indaba.

As part of reflecting on the 20 years of the PSCBC, we call upon this institution to develop a feedback mechanism to monitor all Resolution and Agreements which are signed by the parties and to ensure that they are successfully implemented. This mechanism will ensure that parties that engaged in bargaining matters, are assured that negotiations take place in good faith and will be implemented if agreed upon.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

We need to properly prepare and prioritise the engagements on entering into the next multi-year agreement on the bettering of conditions of service for public servants.

Allow us to emphasise that it is critical that we work for a productive and stable public service. As government, we will continue to collaborate with our labour partners as well as the PSCBC in order to ensure that the public service machinery functions properly with the ultimate goal of delivering efficient services to the people.

We reiterate our commitment as the Ministry for the Public Service and Administration and the DPSA, that, as the representatives of the Employer, we value the importance of collective implementation of agreements within the framework of the PSCBC. We thus commit to avoid unilateral implementation of bargaining matters and will always abide by the PSCBC rules.

In conclusion:

Once more, we congratulate you as the PSCBC on this momentous achievement. Let this sod turning event today signify new beginnings of fostering hope for public servants, a monument symbolising democratisation, economic development, social justice and labour peace for public servants.

Allow us to congratulate the leadership of the PSCBC, Mr Phophi, Mr Sebiloane and the General Secretary Mr De Bruin, for steering the Council to this point.

May the new building that will arise from this ceremony reaffirm our commitment to serving our people through Batho Pele Value Statement - We Belong (to our people), We Care (about our people), We Serve (our people).

I thank you.

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