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MANZINI – The cost-of-living adjustment (CoLA) offer extended by government to managers and non-unionisable civil servants has seemingly brought division among the public servants.

On June 27, 2022, the Government Negotiation Team (GNT) and the Eswatini Principals Association (EPA) signed a collective agreement to implement a three per cent CoLA of monthly basic salary across the board with effect from the beginning of the government financial year, April 1, 2022. In addition to this, the parties also agreed on an additional once-off payment of one per cent of annual basic salary across the board.

According to the Minister of Public Service, Mabulala Maseko, the GNT was negotiating on the basis that there was a budget of E220 million set aside through the Appropriations Act No. 1 of 2023 for CoLA in the 2022/2023 financial year.


Given that the public sector unions (PSUs) of Swaziland, who until this year, have always negotiated for civil servants, did not agree with government on the agenda for the joint negotiation forum (JNF), they were excluded from the offer. Subsequent to the agreement by the GNT and EPA, some members of the PSUs took to social media platforms while others called this publication, where they expressed their opinions on the matter. Some of the civil servants said the unions should have taken the money as it would have made a difference in their lives given the escalating cost-of-living, while others were sticking to the resolve of their leaders.


Some teachers in their group – Teachers Circle - said the three per cent CoLA was minimal given the inflation. One of them said getting nothing was far better, as she remained on the same tax bracket, than to get an increment that would increase her pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) deduction while not improving her financial status. Another said she was fine as the difference brought by the award was minimal while another teacher noted that this was a divide and rule strategy.

“The three per cent is an insult looking at the increase in commodities,” said another. On the other hand, some civil servants expressed regret that government was extending the offer to a limited number. They claimed that taking the amount that was offered was far better than getting nothing, as it was a known fact that government had never listened to their leaders (trade unions). He said: “Before 2020, the unions were seeking CoLA for three consecutive years and nothing was offered. Instead, in 2020, they made an offer which seemingly meant that we were getting one per cent CoLA for each of the years none was offered. So, what is different this time?”


The public servant was of the view that the PSUs should have negotiated for the same offer in the interim, while they looked at the broader picture. His sentiments were also shared by others, who claimed that rejecting what government proposed would not alter anything. They claimed that in their experience in the civil service, government always did what it wanted regardless of their stance.  Other civil servants called this publication and stated that they would have appreciated the little that government was offering.

“It’s tough out there, even E200 would make a difference at this point. We should taken this offer while negotiating for more,” another said.
To these assertions by members of the PSUs, the secretariat through Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) Secretary General (SG) Sikelela Dlamini, said they were not deterred by the collective agreement between EPA and the GNT.


Dlamini beseeched their members not to feel left out by what was offered and agreed upon by the other union. Instead, he said they would follow their concerns to the end at the Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration Commission (CMAC). “Our members should do proper calculations and see that what has been agreed to by the other union is too minimal and can’t meet the cost-of-living,” Dlamini said. He said they were negotiating for a better livelihood which was inclusive of the allowances that were not improved in the 2016 salary review.

Currently, Dlamini said they were getting transport allowances that valued a kilometre at 17 cents despite that bus fare for short distances was now E10. The SNAT secretary general said they wanted realistic allowances for their members, which would be in-line with the current commercial rates. He also said civil servants were still offered E600 as housing allowance despite that the commercial rates for a decent one bedroom house was in excess of E2 000.

Dlamini said the PSUs would consult their membership after the reconciliation process at CMAC to establish what they wanted. Meanwhile, government said in addition to the E220 million CoLA, it had also set aside E55 million for the 2016 Salary Review Appeals and E15 million for the engagement of a consultant to undertake a salary review of the entire public service.

With this budget, the Ministry of Public Service said government was conscious of the erosion of the buying power of salaries for civil servants and was also in full appreciation of the prevailing fiscal and cash flow challenges, which was why the employer invited both the PSUs (NAPSAWU, SNAT, SNA and SNAGAP) and EPA at the beginning of the 2022/2023 financial year to present their proposed agenda items that would culminate in a consolidated agenda for the current financial year.

It is worth noting that the four trade unions enjoy a vast support from public service workers as SNAT is said to have over 12 002 members, while the National Public Services and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU) has about 7 296 members. Also, Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union (SWADNU) has about 2 019 members from about 4 000 nurses while the Swaziland National Association of Government Accounting Personnel (SNAGAP) has about 800 members.

In total, according to the Establishment Register for the 2022/23 financial year, there are 42 686 civil servants. This means that if government executes the move to exclude only public servants who pay subscriptions to trade unions, only 20 569 employees would benefit.This is because collectively, the trade unions have about 22 117 members.


To this, SNAT Secretary General (SG) Sikelela Dlamini said it was the evidence of union bashing which they had raised in several instances with the employer. He said they were steadfast in their resolve to take their matter for the reconciliation process at the Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration Commission (CMAC) tomorrow. Dlamini said as PSUs, they viewed the novel negotiations as a divide and rule strategy being employed by government (employer). He said what their employer as civil servants had done was setting a tone that would extend to the private sector.

Also, SG of SWADNU Mayibongwe Masangane, said this was a message to civil servants by the employer, saying that they should not join unions. He said their understanding was that government should only pay civil servants who were non-unionisable. Non-unionisable employees are those who cannot join a trade union due to the nature of their employment and or are in management.

Meanwhile, the three per cent cost-of-living adjustment (CoLA) and once-off one per cent of an annual salary follows an agreement reached by government with EPA. The pair engaged in novel negotiations parallel to those with PSUs, who have from time immemorial, been negotiating for civil servants. Government and the PSUs reached a deadlock on what ought to be the agenda of the negotiations at the joint negotiation forum (JNF) this financial year. Through a press statement on Monday, government said the decision followed a deadlock between PSUs and the employer (government negotiation team (GNT)).

The minister said in a meeting of the JNF held on April 27, 2022, the PSUs and GNT engaged each other with the aim of setting the agenda items for discussion during this financial year according to priority. He said the parties, however, failed to agree on the merging of the agenda items as well as the criteria and justifications used by each party in arriving at the order of priority of the agenda items presented at the table.

“As a result, there from, the parties agreed to disagree and signed a deadlock on the setting of the agenda. The agenda items presented by the GNT were in the following order of priority: CoLA, negotiations framework, finalisation of the salary review appeals and salary review.” The minister said the PSUs, on the other hand, also presented their list of agenda items in the following order of priority; finalisation of the negotiations framework, allowances, finalisation of salary review appeals, salary review, CoLA for the 2022/23 financial year and quality public service delivery. Maseko said the proposal from the GNT was to alternate the agenda items until the list was exhausted. However, this proposal, he said, was rejected by the PSUs, who proposed that the agenda items that were left pending from the previous financial year 2021/2022 should be first on the agenda.


This, he said, was not acceptable to the GNT, who held the view that there was no agreement compelling parties to bring forward items pending from previous financial years, but rather the agenda should be set based on the need for that financial year, hence the deadlock. Following the deadlock, the PSUs reported a dispute at CMAC and the parties were summoned to appear before the commission tomorrow for the conciliation of the dispute. The minister said in compliance with the existing Recognition Agreements with NAPSAWU, SNAT, SWADNU and SNAGAP, government would only table the offer to members of EPA, those employees regarded as managers and those employees who, by the nature of their work, could not join a union or were non-unionisable.

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