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Saturday, January 22, 2022

Union warns against job losses as government announces remote working plans

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Johannesburg – The government has been cautioned against shedding public service jobs as it plans to develop proposals for a new remote working policy framework.

A Public Service Summit, scheduled for March by the government and representatives of its 1.3 million employees, is expected to discuss moves to make remote working a permanent feature in national and provincial departments.

The summit is likely to also discuss all other issues still outstanding at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC).

The Public Servants Association (PSA) has indicated that negotiations and engagements on the draft remote working policy will be tackled ahead of the meeting.

Among the consolidated demands tabled to the government by unions last year include the implementation of working remotely and/or the greater use of technology, knowledge and innovation.

The unions want a permanent arrangement providing for flexibility as Covid-19 and the use of technology opened a new order in the world of work.

Public servants believe while they were working from home this not only yielded savings in government expenditure on electricity, water, stationery, telephone costs and various other daily operating costs but with permanent restructuring, it could further result in savings on rentals and acquiring of buildings for those government services that can fully operate remotely.

In addition, the unions proposed that the savings made could allow the government to redirect such funds to its employees to cover the operating costs of working from home such as electricity and using their own premises.

However, the PSA has warned that the introduction of the remote working policy may lead to various pitfalls and even contribute to job losses.

”The principle for the PSA to engage in such a policy will always be to argue against any changes that will result in job losses and obtaining guarantees against such will be at the centre of any negotiation process,” the union said.

According to the Department of Public Service and Administration, the National Treasury’s Government Technical Advisory Centre has been contracted by the department to review all regulations, circulars, norms and standards, related policies and directives to bring the public service human resources regime into the 21st century as the state prepares for the future of work.

The policy framework will assist departments to develop their own decentralised remote working policies.

It will also allow them to decide the type of work that can be performed remotely, how security and confidentiality will be maintained, and whether remote work will be full or part-time.

Additionally, the government has warned that its remote working policy does not necessarily mean “working from home” as employees may also be required to work at service delivery sites or district offices other than their head office.

”It should be noted that the policy framework does not dictate where a person should work from (it can be home, another office, another province, another department, etc, as determined by the accounting officer,” reads the department’s presentation to the PSCBC last month.

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