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The Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini has noted with concern the continuous negative publicity made by public sector associations as a result of Government’s inability to award a cost of living adjustment to civil servants for the past two years. Government has also received a notice from the Swaziland National Association of Teachers informing her of its members’ intention to embark on a strike action from the 23rd September, 2019 over the demand for a cost of living adjustment for the year 2017/2018.  The print media has also reported that the sponsors of the teacher’s strike action are now inviting others who are legally not part of the dispute between Government and her employees, including non-citizens of the country to join the strike action and engage in unlawful activities, such as border blockades and further invited students to participate in the strike action; in an effort to force government to accede to their demand for a cost of living adjustment. In light of these reports, Government has found it necessary and expedient to provide the nation with the correct information in order to put this issue in its correct perspective for civil servants to make informed decisions.

  1. It is of paramount importance for me to inform all civil servants and the nation that Government is in a challenging financial situation, hence her inability to award civil servants with a cost of living adjustment for the past two years. It is, therefore, worrying for civil servants to engage in a strike action when the desired outcome of such an action will not be achieved, but will instead compound the situation and further worsen the already delicate economic situation.
  2. The fiscal situation is characterized by increasing arrears and cash-flow concerns, and has weighed heavily on domestic economic activity, as the fiscal challenges have a ripple effect on the performance of the entire economy. Whilst the production sectors, such as agriculture and manufacturing have been able to boost economic growth slightly, this has however not been sufficient to sustain an increase in civil servants salaries.
  1. On average, economic growth has been below 2 percent for the past decade and projections for the future remain unfavourable. It is, therefore, of priority to government to implement economic recovery measures based on fiscal consolidation and macroeconomic stability to boost economic growth and employment. In this endeavour, Government is calling all stakeholders, inclusive of the private sector, financial sector, public sector, civil society and trade unions to join forces in resuscitating the economy. In the short-term, it is imperative for Government to build up the country’s reserves to protect the currency peg to the Rand and regain private sector confidence.
  1. It will be recalled that the country also went through a financial challenge in the year 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 during the worldwide economic recession which affected many countries in different continents. During that period no cost of living adjustments were awarded to public servants. However, when the fiscal challenges subsided in the year 2013, Government, though under extreme fiscal recovery challenges, was able to award a 5% cost of living adjustment, including a 54% once off basic salary adjustment in the same year. Notwithstanding the fact that Government was not yet out of the fiscal challenges in the following financial years, public servants have consistently realized salary increments (cost of living adjustments and salary review). In 2014/15 it was 6.5%, 2015/16 at 6.5%, 2016/17 Salary review averaging 17% which sums up to 30% awarded for 3 consecutive years up until 2016/2017, where again Government started experiencing financial challenges.
  1. It is prudent to clarify that Government respects the relationship it has with the Public Sector Associations (PSA) as social partners and therefore has no intention of frustrating civil servants. However, the current fiscal challenges as outlined above do not allow for any further increment during this critical time.
  1. I wish to emphasise that no amount of persuasion will enable government to award her employees with a salary increment during such a challenging economic situation. The major economic and fiscal challenges facing the country are there for all to see as they have now permeated to affect the provision of government services to the citizens. These challenges were articulated to the Public Sector Associations and that Government has exhausted all avenues for the provision of a cost of living adjustment. At the same time the wage bill continues to be above acceptable international standards.
  1. In the circumstance, there are two cost-cutting options available for Government to choose from; a) to cut down on personnel costs through retrenchments, b) to keep personnel costs constant in order to avoid retrenchments. Since it is Government’s responsibility to ensure the wellbeing of the citizens of the country, including her employees, and further ensure economic and political stability, Government has found it prudent to retain all public servants and keep personnel costs constant for the time being. We believe that as the situation improves, consideration will be made towards awarding civil servants a cost of living adjustment.
  1. Furthermore, as part of transparency, Government invited PSA’s to be part of the process of monitoring the performance of the economy on a quarterly basis, with a view of awarding a cost of living adjustment for the financial year 2020/2021 if the economy improves. This process is to enable the Public Sector Associations to have an input on how the economy can recover and even present proposals on growth strategies that can be explored since this is a collective effort towards reviving the country’s economy. This proposal by Government was out rightly rejected by the PSA’s who insisted on an immediate award of cost of living adjustment.
  1. Should civil servants exercise their right to strike, they also have the responsibility to respect the rule of law and also the rights of school going children and members of the public. In this regard, it is illegal to call upon students and other parties to carry out unlawful activities in furtherance of the objectives of the strike action. Those who will engage in unlawful activities during the proposed strike action should be aware that the law will take its course. Civil servants should also be aware that Government, as the employer, will effect the no-work no-pay rule on all those who will not be carrying out their duties as expected during the intended strike action.
  1. Government remains committed to collectively uplift the economy and further engage our social partners in finding amicable solutions towards mitigating the current fiscal challenges which will then allow for a reasonable salary adjustment as the situation improves.




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