Members of the Academic and Professional Staff Association (APSA) at Sefako Makgato Health Sciences University have decided to go on a protected strike today to fight for their valid demand for a 7% wage increase. The institution is merely proposing a pitiful 5% raise at a time when inflation has pushed the cost of basics up by 10%. This is asking workers to take a cut in their real incomes.
The working class in South Africa is under attack from all sides as the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) just increased the repo rate by 50 basis points. The repo rate has increased by a total of 475 bps since the SARB started tightening policy in November 2021, with rate increases occurring at 10 consecutive sessions. For the majority of South Africans, even those in the middle class, this has led to higher debt repayments and more defaults, adding on to the burden of inflation and shrinking wages. Given the circumstances workers are facing, the request of 7% is more than reasonable; in fact, workers are merely asking for the bare minimum as 7% is still below inflation.
Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana removed R4,3 billion from tertiary education in February of this year, financially excluding students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Because of this, South Africa's universities are on fire every year; yet, the middle class and the wealthy can pay higher tuition fees or they send their children to the growing number of private universities, but working-class families do not have this option. The Cry of the Xcluded believes in solidarity between workers and students against budget cuts and the increased pressure on educators.
The budget cuts facing our public institutions can be avoided. Taxes have been collected by SARS in excess of projections, totalling R93,7 billion more than was projected in the 2022 budget. At the same time, the government has cut corporate tax rates. The demands of South Africa's excluded majority have been put aside in favour of the objective of generating a budget surplus by 2024/25 in order to please international credit rating agencies and lenders.
We firmly believe that employees should be paid fairly and, more crucially, that more personnel should be hired to support effective teaching and learning. Cry of the Xcluded Gauteng will join the workers on the streets as they fight for wage increases and oppose cuts to education. In our opinion, it is now imperative for employed and unemployed people to unite in opposition to the assault of austerity measures. The Cry of the Xcluded continues to demand a R1500 basic income grant, decent work, decent pay, land, an end to femicide and gender-based violence, and dignity for all.
Issued by Members of the Academic and Professional Staff Association