Government’s failure to pay thousands of public servants danger allowances may prove extremely costly in wage negotiations with public sector trade unions.
Public Service and Administration director-general Mashwahle Diphofa has warned that the government’s delay in implementing the 2012 resolution to review the decision to pay danger allowances to public servants facing genuine risk to their lives during their employment may compromise the state in the upcoming wage negotiations.
Public sector wage negotiations are expected to have concluded by November shortly before the 2012 collective agreement expires in March next year, according to National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (Nupsaw) general secretary Success Mataitsane.
In a letter dated May 14, Diphofa cautioned heads of national and provincial departments and administrations that it was imperative that the review be implemented as “non-implementation will present the risk of compromising engagements in the next rounds of negotiations”.
Mataitsane said public sector unions were in the process of formulating their demands.
Diphofa gave the senior government officials until last Saturday to provide details of the occupational categories exposed to genuine risk, the nature, extent, frequency of the risks and the impact upon employees.
Last year, acting Public Service and Administration director-general Nhlakanipho Nkontwana wrote to his Health, Social Development and Education counterparts asking them to conduct “scientific and objective investigations” on occupational categories that still need danger allowances and those that must continue receiving it or have it terminated.
Danger pay was first introduced during the 1999 wage negotiations for state employees such as traffic inspectors, prison warders and social workers.
Also included were counsellors working with people in places of safety and on parole, prison educationists, nurses working with psychiatric patients, investigative and law-enforcing nature conservationists, National Institute of Communicable Diseases employees and immigration officers among others.
Mataitsane said that Nupsaw was challenging the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council’s (PSCBC) decision of last year to pay emergency medical services personnel, who were initially part of the 1999 agreement, a year’s danger allowance. He said the union expected government to pay danger allowances backdated to April 2007.
The union, which has 30 000 members, has taken the PSCBC to the Labour Court in Johannesburg to have its decision reviewed.
“The commissioner didn’t grasp the issues, the PSCBC still has to submit its papers,” Mataitsane said.
He said the danger pay matter had not been settled due to public sector unions and the government not coming up with the occupational categories requiring danger pay.
There is also a draft danger allowance resolution for mine inspectors, defence secretariat personnel, employees at places of safety (including), youth-care centres, child-care schools, reform schools and schools identified as dangerous.
Government is South Africa’s largest single employer with more than 1.2 million workers on its multibillion-rand payroll.
Public sector salaries reportedly made up 39.5 percent of government’s non-interest expenditure last year but this is expected to fall to 36 percent of its gross expenditure in 2014/15.
The South African government is not the only employer that pays danger allowances.
Employees of the United Nations in war-torn countries such as Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Somali region of Ethiopia, Iraq, north-eastern Kenya, Libya, Mali, north-eastern Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan including Darfur, Syria and Yemen also receive danger pay.
Members of the South African Police Service task force, public order policing unit, special forces of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) are among those receiving special danger allowances.
SANDF chief General Solly Shoke and former national police boss Riah Phiyega can designate members facing high risk due to attacks, widespread violent offences and military activities by enemy forces.