SPEECHES

Address by the minister for the public service and administration ms faith muthambi, mp, at the 20th anniversary celebratory function of the public service co-oridinating bargaining council

Date: 25 Oct 2017

GALLAGHER ESTATE, MIDRAND

GAUTENG PROVINCE

Chairpersons of the PSCBC, Advocate Luvuyo Bono

Vice-Chairpersons of the PSCBC, Me Thandeka Msibi and Mr. Mpfariseni Phophi;

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 celebration of the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council’s 20th Anniversary.

This event marks yet another milestone in the history of the PSCBC. This event is also notably celebrated as we celebrate the live and legacy of Comrade Oliver Reginald Tambo (OR) born, on 27 October 1917.

Comrade OR Tambo was the longest ever serving president of the ANC from 1969 to 1991. An exemplary leader, activist and struggle icon. He has been described by President Jacob Zuma as a “solution oriented leader who always sought to move forward on the basis of building consensus”.

These character trademarks, of Comrade Tambo, should also be the principles for conducting process of collective bargaining, being solution driven in our approach, moving forward on the basis of building consensus between parties.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The Constitution of our Country, provides for what is referred to as the bill of rights, these rights forms the cornerstone of our democracy in South Africa. It enshrines the rights of all people in our country and affirms our democratic state.

These rights amongst other include the right of;

Equality

Human Dignity

Freedom of Expression

Assembly, Demonstration, Picket and Petition

Freedom of Association

Political Rights

Housing

Health Care, Food Water and Social Security; and

Education

More importantly section 23 of the bill of rights provides for the right to labour relations. It allows the right for, every trade union, employer’s organization and employer to engage in collective bargaining.

The Constitution requires furthermore that the state must respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights contained/ listed in the Bill of Rights.

The Labour Relations Act, is the enabling legislation that gives effect to the bill of rights on labour relations as provided for in the Constitution.

The legislature by designating or legislating bargaining councils in the public service through the Labour Relations Act, encapsulated the commitment and respect of the State as an institution, wanting to protect and promote the right to labour relations in the public service.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The purpose of the Labour Relations Act, is to advance economic development, social justice, labour peace and the democratization of the workplace.

The constitution of the PSCBC also preserves the commitment of Parties to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights contained or listed in the Bill of Rights.

The objectives as from the constitution of the Council provides for amongst other to;

  • Generally enhance labour peace in the public service;

  • To promote a sound relationship between the employer and its employees; and to

  • To bargain and negotiate collectively to reach agreement on matters of mutual interest to the employer and employees.

In celebrating the 20th anniversary the PSCBC agreed to measure their performance, consider their successes, failures and challenges under the theme;

“Democratizing the workplace in advancing economic development, social justice and labour peace in the Public Service.”

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The pillars of democratization, economic development, social justice and labour peace are those enshrined in the bill of rights, recorded as the purpose of the Labour Relations Act and which forms the base of the objectives of the constitution of the PSCBC.

We believe the PSCBC as an institution is committed to advance and protect centralized collective bargaining in being the vanguard of the rights of public servants as enshrined in the Constitution.

As the Parties to the PSCBC we should defend this institution vigorously as to ensure the democratization of the workplace, economic development of those that serve, social justice and labour peace in the public service is strengthened over the next 20 years and beyond.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

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, in the city centre of Tshwane.

As part of this 20th anniversary celebrations, we were also privileged earlier in the year, to attend the auspicious sod turning event off the PSCBC. The event was evident of the visionary leadership of the Council to ensure self-sustainability and independence for the Council in their need for sufficient accommodation. The achievement is commendable for an institution this young. The building when completed, should recognise the struggles of our democracy and be a symbol to all workers on the victories achieved.

It should be 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 in the next 20 years and beyond.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Achievements in the PSCBC are numerous but some of the more memorable achievements include the hosting of the 2001 “Public Service Job Summit”, the purpose of the job summit was to establish joint mechanisms on transformation, employment practices and socio-economic development in the public service.

Parties emerged from the two day summit with a framework agreement, later made an agreement of Council committing to reducing levels of unemployment, eradicating poverty and restructuring the State to respond to the challenges of service delivery.

The framework agreement was a striking example of the synergy between the state as employer and public service unions through the PSCBC in addressing issues of transformation and restructuring in the public service.

The then Chairperson of the PSCBC, now serving as Honourable Judge in the High Court of South Africa, Judge Edwin Molahlehi, said that the agreement; “demonstrated the parties commitment to face the twin challenge of transforming the public service to improve the reach, depth, efficiency and quality of social service delivery, whilst at the same time improving the conditions of service, quality and sustainability of jobs for employees of the public service.”

Ladies and Gentlemen:

In 2002, this commitment resulted in the signing of PSCBC Resolution 7 of 2002, the framework agreement on the transformation and restructuring of the Public Service. This agreement was the most comprehensive transformation initiative in the public service.

Although initially labelled as a mechanism for Government to retrench white workers and to act in a reversed discriminatory manner, no forced retrenchments as a result of the implementation of the agreement ever occurred. The majority of excess personnel were reabsorbed into the public service.

In 2002, Council also signed an agreement outlining a process of addressing the restructuring of the Government Employees Pensions Fund (GEPF). This was a milestone agreement allowing all public servants to be treated fairly in addressing the apartheid pensions system that was then in place.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

In 2006, Parties further bettered the macro-benefits of employees with the signing of PSCBC Resolution 1 of 2006 allowing for the establishment of a medical scheme for public servants, to be known as the Government Employees Medical Scheme (GEMS) to ensure greater accessibility by providing affordable medical cover to all employees especially lower income earners to take up medical cover.

In 2013, Parties entered into PSCBC Resolution 1 of 2013 conforming the “service charter” for the public service into a collective agreement. 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.

In 2015, Parties entered into PSCBC Resolution 1 of 2015 as to do a comprehensive review on the outsourcing and agentisation practices within the public service. An important process that would bear its fruits in discussions during the next few months as to assess the impact of such on service delivery, job security and the increase in cost to perform outsourced functions.

In 2017, Parties acknowledged that the labour environment is changing and as the public service we will have to be proactive as to ensure we remain vigilant in protecting the principles of the right to freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining and others by entering into resolution 2 of 2017, on organisational rights within the public service.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

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. 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.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

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 prioritise our engagements on entering into the ensuing multi-year agreement on the bettering of conditions of service for public servants.

We need to be cognizant of the economic hardship of our public servants, but equally we need to be cognizant of the limited availability of resourcing for the public service.

We need to prioritize the implementation of PSCBC Resolution 7 of 2015, in establishing of a government employees housing scheme.

We need to expedite the transformation of the board of trustees for the government employee’s medical scheme, to be representative of the majority of 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.

In conclusion:

Once more, we congratulate you as the PSCBC on this momentous achievement. Let this celebration this evening signify hope for public servants, in continuing to democratize the workplace, allowing economic development, social justice and labour peace for public servants.

Allow us to congratulate the leadership of the PSCBC Advocate Bono, Mr. Phophi, Me Msibi and the General Secretary Mr. De Bruin with his support staff, for arranging this event in celebration and recognition of your 20th birthday.

Let us all reaffirm our commitment to serving our people through the 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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