NEHAWU welcomes the Budget Speech that was tabled before parliament today by the Minister of Finance, Mr Pravin Gordhan and we are happy with the government’s commitment to increase and shift government spending on key priority areas with the intention to create a new growth path for the local economy.
Whilst there are important commitments in the budget speech which we support such as increased allocations for HIV/AIDS although we are concerned that the spending over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework period remains moderate.
We welcome and support the government’s efforts to fight corruption and trim down the obscene salaries and perks that public servants in governments and parastatals have been awarding to themselves.
This obscene spending and crass materialism is the main reason why we have the highest rate of inequalities in this country and we expect those who hold leadership positions to take the lead.
Despite a clear commitment made in the State of the Nation Address and even in this Budget Speech to the National Health Insurance scheme it is surprising that the minister still seeks to increase monthly monetary caps for deductable medical scheme in order to expand the membership of the current medical schemes.
This is disappointing and confusing because it sends mixed messages and underscores the need to expedite the process towards the introduction of a single national insurance fund. The implementation of the NHI is central to the transformation of the health sector and will be a big step towards the goal of building a comprehensive social security system.
The union is deeply worried at the fervor with which government is pursuing and committing itself to the use of “public-private partnerships” in the health sector which we are totally opposed to.
The minister has failed to give more details as to the nature and extent of the PPPs he is alluding to and he goes on to say that “the flagship PPP hospital project will be Chris Hani Baragwanath, for which feasibility study is now complete”. The union is shocked to hear about this clandestine flagship project as we were never informed about it as stakeholders.
NEHAWU has undertaken a widely supported and credible study on the transformation of the Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital on the basis of which we made some important policy proposals for the transformation of our hospital system. Yet, the project has since been stalled in favour of the introduction of PPPs.
The use of public-private partnerships in the face of despicable profiteering in the private health industry is a deviation to the promises made to the electorate in 2009 and can only give confidence to those who are opposed to the transformation of the health system.
We are extremely disappointed that while the governments theme is about “doing things differently” there were no major fiscal and monetary policy changes in the budget speech and that inflation targeting will be maintained.
Although we welcome a further R1.3 billion to improve the salaries of FET college educators, we call on government to extend this increase to all workers in the sector rather than just educators. NEHAWU calls on government to urgently introduce amendments to the Further Education and Colleges Act with a view to transfer these workers back to the public service.
We call on the minister to refrain from negotiating with organized labour on wage increase through the budget speech and while we accept that the wage bill may have almost doubled in five years, this was from an unacceptably low base, which makes even the current level pay of inadequate.
Job creation and the filling of vacant posts in the public service should not be done at the expense of the creation of decent conditions of employment and as NEHAWU we are calling for a comprehensive review of the remuneration policy and the filling of vacant posts as part of improving government’s capacity to deliver service better.