SPEECHES

Speech by the Minister for the Public Service and Administration Ms Faith Muthambi, MP at the Public Servants Association Annual General Meeting (AGM)

Date: 18 Sep 2017

Chairperson of the PSA Board: Adv. Rashied Daniels

Distinguished members of the Board

General Manager of the PSA: Mr. Ivan Fredericks

Senior Management of the PSA

Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentleman

Good morning,

Thank you for providing me with an opportunity to participate and interact with you at this Annual General Meeting (AGM). I am pleased that you extended an invitation to the Ministry for the Public Service and Administration to engage with you at this important gathering.

We are meeting today, during the month of September. A month that ushers a new season of ‘spring’. Spring is known as a season of renewal, restoration and new beginnings. I am sure that when the PSA elected to host its AGM during this month of September it was with that ‘renewal and new beginning’ in mind.

September is Public Service Month, a month where we celebrate and embrace the Batho Pele programme by trying to instill, and rebuild good ethics, morale, pride, and professionalism in the manner in which public servants do their work.

The theme for the 2017 Public Service Month is “Together Moving the Public Service Forward; we belong, we care, we serve”. Programmes aimed at celebrating this important month are continuing, and we urge all public servants to participate.

September is also a month of celebration in South Africa. As a country, we celebrate our ‘Heritage’, we celebrate our diversity and uniqueness. As part of this heritage, commemorate the life of one of our struggle for liberation, the anti-apartheid activists Bantu Stephen Biko. A life cut short by the brutal system of apartheid in September 1977 here in Pretoria. In one of his memorable quotes, Steve Biko says:

“I am going to be me as I am, and you can beat me or jail me or even kill me but I’m not going to be what you want me to be.”

Ideologically an African nationalist and an African socialist, he was at the forefront of a grass-root anti-apartheid campaign known as the Black Consciousness Movement. Today as we stand here, we commemorate his life and the sacrifices he made for the liberation of our people.

Colleagues,

Allow me to further remind you that this year, South Africa commemorates and celebrates the life of an anti-apartheid activists, a revolutionary who served as the President of the African National Congress from 1967 to 1991, comrade Oliver Reginald Tambo.

Comrade Tambo, who would have been 100 years old on 27 October 2017, has borne the burden of guiding the resistance and securing international solidarity for a quarter of a century while in exile since 1960.

A modest man who rejected all honours and accepted only an honorary degree from the Jawaharlal Nehru University in India most reluctantly while encouraging the world to honour Nelson Mandela. In one of his memorable quotes he says:

“We seek to create a united Democratic non-racial society. We have a vision of South Africa in which black and white shall live and work together as equals in conditions of peace and prosperity. Using the power you derive from the discovery of the truth about racism in South Africa, you will help us to remake our part of the world into a corner of the globe on which all of humanity can be proud”.

His words ring true today because as a nation, we should strive to live and work together in conditions of peace and racial harmony.

Today as we enjoy the fruits of a revolutionary and progressive labour relations environment, we should not forget the sacrifices made by the heroes and heroines of our liberation struggle.

Colleagues,

I am convinced that for the Public Service to prosper, we need to create and instil a culture of efficient and effective labour relations between the employer and labour. The only way this will be achieved is through forming and maintaining positive labour relations in the public service sector.

Since my deployment into this Ministry, I have made a point of engaging with organised labour with the aim of forming a partnership relationship and creating avenues for dialogue with labour partners.

In a meeting I had with the PSA leadership on 27 July 2017, I articulated my frustration with the seemingly broken relationship between the employer and labour. It must be understood that the organised labour and employer relationship is worsened by arbitration awards.

Moreover, the relationship is further eroded when we adopt the posture that the Courts will decide. The relations we have should not be characterised by court judgements and awards.

We must strive to find each other and use alternative means to find solutions to matters that are of interest to us. As for me, I am committed to see improvements in the labour relations environment.

At this meeting with the leadership, a number of issues were raised namely:

    • Efficiency of collective bargaining;

    • Court cases;

    • SMS Cost-of-living adjustment;

    • Upcoming salary negotiations;

    • Financial disclosures;

    • Work facilities;

    • Government Employee Housing Scheme; and

    • Government Employee Medical Scheme.

I did say at that meeting that, “no man is an island, ons gaan saam werk”. I further reiterated that the burning issues raised by the leadership are not insurmountable but that we should work together to deal with them.

I have put systems in place to ensure that there is stability in collective bargaining in the PSCBC and the GPSSBC albeit on a temporary basis. You may be aware that the Department has publicly advertised the following posts:

    • Deputy Director-General: Employment of Conditions of Service

    • Chief Director: Labour Relations and Negotiations; and

    • Director: Collective Bargaining.

I can say that the temporary capacity that has been deployed at the PSCBC and the GPSSBC is ensuring that work is being done and that hiccups that happened previously are a thing of the past.

Colleagues,

Since my re-assignment into the Ministry for Public Service and Administration, my team and I are working tirelessly to ensure that the challenges facing the public service are tackled head on. A specific recent intervention that we can cite is the intervention of the Ministry and Department to stop a planned nation-wide strike by employees of the Department of Home Affairs in June 2017.

The implementation of the Cost-of-Living salary adjustment backdated to 1 April 2017 is also a case in point. I must say though that the delay in finalising this matter is regrettable.

In the meantime, the Minister of Finance and I have established a team to address the structural adjustment challenges between the Middle Management Services (MMS) and SMS members.

Colleagues,

A very important matter that I want to address her is the management of conflict of interest in the public service.

The Public Service Regulations, 2016 Regulation 18(3) requires that I determine categories of employees who shall disclose their financial interest. I have determined that MMS members (employees on salary levels 11 and 12), Supply Chain Management employees, employees dealing with finance and OSD employees who are on remuneration levels equivalent to that of staff on levels 11 and 12 must also disclose.

I have been reliably informed that the Public Service Regulations, 2016 were presented to organised labour at the PSCBC in 2016 and therefore Regulation 18(3) is not new. Extending the financial disclosure to other categories is to ensure that there is transparency, that we minimise conflicts of interest and most importantly, that we stop employees from doing business with the State.

Ladies and Gentleman, allow me to assure you that this is not the same as a life style audit. Government in this case is not interested in how many credit loans employees have or how many assets they own.

Comrades,

Recently, the Employer and Labour concluded three (3) progressive collective agreements in the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC). These are:

    • Resolution 1 of 2017: Agreement on the amendments/improvements of certain existing pension benefits and creation of new benefits;

    • Resolution 2 of 2017: Agreement on thresholds and procedure for the granting of organisational rights; and

    • Resolution 3 of 2017: Negotiations Protocol Agreement: Wage Negotiations process.

I want to draw your attention to Resolution 2 of 2017, which is the Agreement on thresholds and procedure for the granting of organisational rights. Our gathering here today is made possible by the progressive Labour Relations Act, which we have in South Africa.

This Act provided employees with the “Right” to organise themselves and this “Right” must be jealously guarded by both the employer and labour. I appeal to the leadership of the PSA to ensure that these Agreements enjoy 100% support during implementation.

Colleagues,

I have mandated my negotiations team in the PSCBC to conclude and sign two collective agreements that addresses the Government Employees Housing Scheme (GEHS) and Government Employees Medical Scheme (GEMS). I was reliably informed that at the Special PSCBC meeting held on 07 September 2017, labour requested more time to conclude and sign the two collective agreements on GEHS and GEMS.

Furthermore, you may be aware that the 2015 collective agreements have reached their deadline and we are preparing for the next round of wage negotiations. We have reached an Agreement in terms of Resolution 3 of 2017 in terms of a Negotiations Protocol. We are committed as the Employer to approach the coming wage negotiations with a joint solution seeking approach. This is our commitment to ensure that this round of wage negotiations is not protracted.

I want to encourage you to hold us to account for the non-implementation of the collective agreements that will come out of the next round of wage negotiations. We cannot continue as if its business as usual if we want to maintain labour peace in the Public Service.

Colleagues,

In closing,

Our ethos is one guided by the Constitution and implores us to demonstrate that We Belong (to our communities), We Serve (our communities and We Care (about our communities). Ultimately, it rests on us to ensure that the people of South Africa are well served because the Government belongs to the people.

I wish you well with this AGM and my Team and I look forward to the resolutions you will take in contributing to making the Government an “Employer of choice” in line with you motto that says the PSA is “a Union of choice”.

I thank you!


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