Tshwane wage strike: Mayor Brink must prioritise fiscal responsibility, not yield to organised extortion 

‘There simply is not enough money to afford the increase, and there are better things to spend public money on.’ - Martin van Staden, Head of Policy, Free Market Foundation  

Reports revealing that the Mayor of Tshwane, Cilliers Brink, has remained steadfast in his decision not to yield to unreasonable union wage demands in the municipality are to be welcomed. The Free Market Foundation (FMF) urges the City to remain resolute as strike action continues. 

‘No sphere of government in South Africa is in an economic position to reward underworked civil servants with more pay. Policy-induced economic contraction, through phenomena like the energy crisis and increasing disinvestment, necessitates a new, far stricter fiscal responsibility. It is not for the state to act as an employment service for labour unions, much less for those unions to engage in organised disruption when their demands are denied based on sound reasoning: there simply is not enough money to afford the increase, and there are better things to spend public money on’, says Van Staden. 

‘What the public sector wage bill represents to the fiscus across all three spheres of government is not concomitant with the value taxpayers are receiving,’ adds Van Staden.

Ratepayers’ understandable desire to bring this significant disruption in Tshwane to an end is what the unions are betting on. The City should be uncompromising, as giving in now will just embolden the public sector unions to continue their plundering of public treasuries around the country.

This is particularly relevant in the context of the upcoming 2024 general election, which will likely see more reform-minded governments coming to power, if not nationally, in some provinces.

If this does happen, these reformist governments will face an embedded and politically hostile unionised civil service that will seek to sabotage reform efforts. One of the methods to achieve this will be to demand ever-increasing wages when the fiscally responsible thing to do in South Africa’s current economic malaise is to radically cut not only the wages civil servants enjoy across all three spheres of government, but also cut the absolute size of the civil service as well.

This will not be easy as is, for any reformist government, but it will be even harder if opposition governments like the one in Tshwane compromises today.