SPEECHES

Speech by the Minister for the Public Service and Administration Ms Faith Muthambi, MP, at the National Labour Relations Forum, Durban, Kwa-Zulu Natal Province

Date: 28 Jun 2017

Chairperson Mr Mpfariseni Phophi,

Acting Premier of KwaZulu-Natal and MEC for COGTA, Ms Nomusa Dube-Ncube

Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) Representatives

GPSSBC Representatives

The General Manager of PSA: Mr Ivan Fredericks

Thulani Gabula and Joel Maluleka from Nehawu

Labour Relations Practitioners

Distinguished guests and Colleagues

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning,

Thank you for the opportunity to participate and interact with you at this National Labour Relations Forum. I am pleased that this structure is being restored to its previous stature.

As the Government we are a diverse employer with more than 1, 3 million employees. Our tasks are so much more complex than what is perceived to be the norm. We hold divergent views on issues, from department to department and from province to province. We have different success indicators and we may have different levels of competencies.

Colleagues,

This forum is therefore extremely important if we want to pursue the concept of uniformed implementation of rules, norms, conduct and performance across the public service. The forum should become the opportunity that we use not only to critique but to propose best practices and to contribute into how we use labour relations to entrench and advance the Batho Pele principles.

For this purpose, I would like to give some inputs into your discussion over the next two days.

Allow me to share with you my conceptualization on reinventing the public service and the importance of collective bargaining.

Colleagues,

We need to review and reinvent the concept of how we work. We have not yet adjusted ourselves to the next industrial revolution and how this will impact on our world of work.

Each revolution demands different skills and tools of engagement. Given our developmental challenges, how do we use new technologies to leapfrog into the future? The 4th Industrial Revolution is upon us. This revolution is characterized “by the accelerated fusion of new technologies that blur the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres.”

Concerns abound that it threatens the very survival of emerging economies. It has been suggested that emerging economies are likely to suffer when artificial intelligence and robots become widely used, reducing the competitive advantage of their cheap labour.

For 80% of Africans employed in the agriculture sector, this also holds an uncertain future since the growing of cereals and fibre crops are near-certainties to be taken over by robots”.

But we do not have to be fearful of the future and future technological developments. We need to keep reminding us of the fact that the “mobile phone may have done more than any other single technical innovation to improve prosperity, business and innovation in Africa. By eliminating the need for expensive infrastructure investments, mobile technology has opened up the continent in ways never thought to be previously possible.” Being prepared to embrace the future is the challenge before us.

Information communication technologies have transformed the workplace and the nature of work. The nature of office has changed for those office bound. For instance, concepts like telecommuting are associated with the notion of mobile office wherein which one’s laptop is not only a gadget for working but is one’s own office. Most of us are trapped in the factory tradition of presenting our physical self in physical spaces. To some of us cyberspace is a remote concept. Yet one of the most prevalent crime that we should be alive to is cybercrime!

You as individuals responsible for labour relations will play an important part in this journey. Not only will you have to advise on how we as the State should approach issues with employees, but you should also advise how best the trade unions should be taken on board as to ensure that we are successful with the transition into a new innovative way of working.

The public service must be professional, transparent, accountable, responsible and developmental. Your debates and discourse at this Forum could make remarkable contributions in the achievement of these underlying principles and values.

I am clear that for us to succeed we require professional, effectively coordinated and well managed state institutions with highly skilled public servants who are committed to serving our people. We cannot deliver services if the only incentive to do so is a pay cheque.

We invest a lot of money and time developing individuals to be good managers and skilled administrators but little time or effort is placed instilling the culture of service.

Our Departments are still plagued by high levels of ethical and integrity issues, maladministration, fraud and corruption continue to be the scourge towards developing a professionalised public sector, thus contributing to poor levels of service delivery.

Most worrying however is the sheer ignorance of some officials in our employment, especially those responsible to manage and maintain labour peace within their Departments. They need to appreciate that you cannot deliver an effective service with disgruntled employees, the sooner we accept that the public service is labour or employee driven, the quicker we can start to build an effective public service.

We fail to understand that the employment relationship cannot be fixed through an arbitration award. The employment relationship is only eroded further when we adopt the posture that we will ask the “Courts” to decide. Millions of taxpayers Rands are being wasted on legal applications to appease employers ego’s when they lose cases in the bargaining councils. The challenge is even worse when these employers take the award on review and loose the case in the Labour Court, the Labour Appeal Court and the Constitutional Court. After all of this, they then still refuse to go back and implement the award. What would be the rational for this thinking? An award that grants an employee a notch and/or an incentive bonus with the financial implication being less than a R100 000 over his employment career, has now in legal cost escalated to literally millions of Rands, because of frivolous applications.

We will be monitoring these cases and we will be coming to recover wasted costs for frivolous applications, from individuals!

Colleagues,

Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, signed the Service Charter, the Charter is a commitment signed by both the State and unions representing civil servants, whereby we committed 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 civil servants and the citizens we work for.

It is expected of all civil servants to adhere to the principles and objectives as outlined in the Charter. However, of greater importance is to have a knowledgeable public; a public that is fully aware of their rights and ready to report poor service in order to prevent fellow citizens from receiving that same poor service.

We can borrow from the inspiring words of the former US President JF Kennedy when he urged his compatriots – he said “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”. This question and posture is as true to US citizens as it is true to ourselves.

We are beneficiaries of struggle and sacrifices of those before us. They gave us the gift of freedom. In passing the baton, they have enjoined us with the challenge of creating a non-racial and non-sexist and prosperous society. Ours is to ensure that our country is not only prosperous but most importantly that we contribute to the task of shared prosperity.

The Department of Public Service and Administration through its engagements with all Unions as signatories to the Service Charter, will request unions to encourage their members to adhere to the Charter. This I am confident will move us towards improving service delivery, actual performance and entrenching greater levels of professionalism within the Public Service.

We will also be proposing that we use the public service month in September to launch a campaign to remind all public servants about the significance of the Service Charter. This task to be coordinated between the branch for labour and human resource management in the DPSA and all human resource or labour relation units in departments throughout the Country. It must be an inclusive process.

Colleagues,

This brings me to a further challenge on the implementation of collective agreements signed in the PSCBC and Sectoral Councils.

We recently received a presentation from the General Secretary of the PSCBC on the implementation of Collective Agreements. The presentation indicated that out of the EIGHT (8) resolutions signed in 2015 to date only TWO (2) have been fully implemented. We are also informed that various other resolutions reached over the past years are yet to be implemented.

There is an agreement on pensions redress that was signed in 1998 and is still outstanding full implementation, for 19 years? Irrespective the reasoning, this is unacceptable.

I want to remind us all of the provisions of the Public Service Regulations, which says “…a collective agreement signed by an authorised representative of the State applies to a Department…….the Department’s Executing authority shall implement and enforce it.”

Colleagues,

Are you advising your Executing Authorities on this responsibility and what consequence management is being applied where these agreements are failing to be implemented and enforced?

More than two years since the signing of the agreement on the Government Housing Scheme, there are still thousands of employees waiting to receive the full housing allowance of R1200 or to access their own money kept in the so-called “linked savings account”. Why?

Let me use this opportunity to assure you of the renewed commitment and seriousness of the DPSA towards the implementation of all agreements signed at the PSCBC and Sector Councils.

As Government we are committed to collective bargaining. We are committed to protect the principle of majority rule, we are committed to prevent the proliferation of trade unions and we are committed to centralised collective bargaining.

Colleagues,

This brings me to the issue of the impending wage negotiations in the public service. As a country we have witnessed several strikes and potential strikes during the past months, the most recent being the dispute on working hours in the Department of Home Affairs, the strike by social workers in the Department of Social Development and the Pathologist’s strike in the Department of Health. I am confident that both employers and employees have learnt valuable lessons from these incidents, and are still learning. Any strike in any format never has a winner or a loser. All are losers.

I am therefore positive that we can and will reach an amicable solution when we start our wage negotiations.

Colleagues,

It is proven - that handled correctly, collective bargaining can be an important vehicle to realize the ideals of transforming the public service into an effective and capable mechanism.

Colleagues,

You are aware of the perception about the quality of service delivery versus what is perceived to be a bloated public service and the uncontrolled escalation of the wage bill.

These perceptions further complicates the processes of wage negotiations in the public service. When the engagement start, it’s not a mere discussion or negotiations between an employer and its employees or trade unions, it becomes a negotiation where economists raise their opinion on settlements, politicians use the uncertainty and instability for party propaganda and the citizenry themselves have their own opinion on what the settlements should be.

This year or this round of negotiations will be no different.

We are clear on the importance of signing a multi-year wage agreement. It benefits all parties in that it creates stability and allows for proper budgeting and governance process.

The challenge we have is that the economic situation we find ourselves in, is not supportive of an “easy” high % settlement on wages. We are faced with the most difficult year of negotiations since the inception of the democratic state.

We have to be innovative in how we address bettering the wages and conditions of service for public servants. It can’t only be a “rand and cent” settlement.

We also have the challenge of the non-implementation of previous collective agreements and this places us as Government on the back foot when we start the process of negotiations.

We have nominated members to a committee as per the decision of the PSCBC to deal with outstanding matters from previous collective agreements. We hope to finalise these matters before we start the wage negotiations.

We may therefore on short notice convene you to discuss some of these outstanding matters.

Also in preparation for the wage negotiations, we will also call on you to share concepts and ideas. I hope this forum at some stage will also have the opportunity to conceptualise our own expectations.

In closing on the wage negotiations, we need stability in our working environments. How we manage this process and how we communicate on this process and how bona fide we respond to demands that will impact on the stability.

You are the cold face of ensuring this stability.

I must mention that am aware of the plight of senior managers in the public service when it pertains to their own conditions of service. I know the current increase that was due in April 2017 is still outstanding and I am well aware of the challenge of encroachment of conditions of service between salary levels 11-13. I can give you the assurance that we are addressing these issues and will expedite the finalization of this.

Colleagues,

In closing,

Our President has called for the building of a new public sector cadre, as part of creating a developmental state - a cadre who provides service to the people, has a caring attitude in dealing with citizens, listening to people’s concerns while truthfully reflecting their wishes, sincerely helping to address their hardships, and doing more to speed up effective service to the people.

Colleagues,

Our ethos is one guided by the Constitution and it implores us to demonstrate that We Belong (to our communities), We Serve (our communities) and We Care (about our communities). In the end we must ensure that our government belongs to all our people and it is in service to our people, wherever they are.

I wish you well with this forum and we look forward to the resolutions you will take in contributing to building a public service cadre that will be able to deliver a professional service.

I thank you!


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