Public service strike may be averted

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LabourCrossing Reuters.

There were strong indications yesterday that a compromise from both the government and its employees’ union could prevent a crippling public service strike.

The Independent Labour Caucus (ILC), representing 11 unions and 480 000 public servants, has indicated it was ready to drop its salary demand from 8 to 7.5 percent before declaring a dispute with the government a week ago.

Meanwhile, Cosatu-affiliated unions said the ball was in Minister of Public Service and Administration Lindiwe Sisulu’s court to invite them back to the negotiating table.

The unions have in the past four months dropped their initial 10 percent salary increase demand – against the government’s 4 percent – for an 8 percent wage hike, while the government improved its offer to 6.5 percent, which Sisulu said was a final offer.

She said this week the 6.5 percent increase would cost the government R30 billion.

Workers were also demanding a R1 500 housing allowance. The government was prepared to add only R100, to bring it up to R900.

Unions were also demanding a single-term agreement against what they said was the employer’s “insistence to impose a multi-term agreement of three years”.

Cosatu unions’ representative Nkosana Dolopi said they were prepared to go back to the negotiation table.

The ILC said conciliation processes by the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council could be avoided if Sisulu could get the unions negotiating again.

ILC spokesman Chris Klopper said yesterday: “We believe that we’re very close to reaching an agreement. An experienced negotiator will notice that there is a deal some- where between 6.5 percent and 8 percent.”

He has made it known already that the labour caucus unions were prepared to go down to 7.5 percent.

Meanwhile, with Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan having indicated in his budget speech this year that public wage increases should be restricted to 5 percent, Sisulu said there had been a huge margin of increase in the public service wage bill since the financial years starting in 2008 and ending last year – from R211bn to R311bn.

“We remain committed to the process of negotiations and would like to invite labour back to the negotiation table,” she said on Tuesday.

However, the unions said yesterday they were yet to get a formal invitation from the minister. “(Sisulu) should have spoken to us instead of saying that to the public,” said Klopper.


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