Government is extremely concerned about the inflammatory nature of some statements by a number of role-players, including trade union leaders, on the public sector strike.
These statements, including the threat to shut down the economy, are unhelpful, unnecessary and irresponsible. Such statements serve to fuel further violence and intimidation.
Government appeals for calm and responsibility, especially at a time our youth are supposed to be preparing for examination. We appeal to the public servants who are on strike to act responsibly and allow the country’s leaders to find a solution to the impasse.
Government remains committed and open to talks with the unions with a view to finding a lasting solution. We call on the unions to return to the negotiation table as soon as possible. The fact that union demands are not affordable at this stage is no reason to resort to ‘war talk’ or to abandon talks. Government and the union leaders have a responsibility to the nation to resolve the wage dispute through negotiations.
Government reiterates that the settlement offer is fair and reasonable in view of the current economic climate and the broad range of challenges facing the nation. These challenges include making the country safe, improving the health and education of our citizens, employment of more nurses, teachers and police. Meeting the union demands today will be at the expense of other national challenges. For example, meeting teacher wage demands today could mean no textbooks for learners tomorrow.
Government insists that workers in the essential services do not have the right to withdraw their labour. Steps will be taken to ensure that essential services workers do not participate in the strike.
Government condemns the violence that has characterised the strike. The nation is witnessing unprecedented and reprehensible forms of violence, intimidation and unacceptable behavior such as the assault of learners by adults, intimidation of volunteers, and the prevention of citizens from accessing urgently needed medical care.
Everyone must condemn the violent behaviour. Government expects union leaders to also condemn the violence and to encourage their members to protest peacefully. No amount of frustration can ever justify intimidation of society by striking workers.
We encourage all citizens to continue to volunteer their services so that the sick can get treatment and the youth can learn. Law enforcement agencies will continue to protect the volunteers and ensure that those who break the laws of the country are held accountable. Government will not stand by while citizens are subjected to violence and intimidation.
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Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)