Ramaphosa calls for pragmatism in talks on public service wages
CAPE TOWN - President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday said talks with trade unions on containing the public wage bill, as set out by finance minister Tito Mboweni in the budget, needed to be conducted in "a spirit of seeking solutions".
"A large part of the savings will come from reducing the rate at which our wage bill grows. This will require focused discussions among all social partners, but particularly with public sector unions. These engagements need to be conducted in a spirit of seeking solutions," Ramaphosa said in his weekly newsletter.
"I am heartened by the willingness of all parties to engage in serious negotiations aimed at finding a solution."
Ramaphosa voiced support for Mboweni's announcement that the public service wage bill be cut by R160 billion over three years, but stressed that this would be done not by cutting salaries but curtailing the rate at which salaries increase.
"Our approach is not to dramatically cut the size of the public service, but to examine the rate at which wages grow. Public service wages have on average increased at a much higher rate than inflation over many years, and we need to fix this if we are to get public finances under control," he said.
He confirmed that government would also target remuneration spending at state-owned enterprises by spelling out in law a framework for salaries at public entities and parastatals to prevent excessive pay package for executives and board members.
"Our trade union compatriots are right in saying that we should in a demonstrable way prevent leakages of public funds by addressing corruption, ending irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure. We will do this and much more."
Ramaphosa added that apart from containing the wage bill, the government also considered improving the efficiency of the public service.
"As much as containing the public wage bill is critical to stabilising public finances, improving public sector performance is imperative if we want to build a more capable, efficient state. We need more of the right people in the right positions," he said.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions last week signaled it would fight Mboweni's plans to curb pay hikes for civil servants, saying many were overworked and underpaid.
In the same breath the labour federation, an alliance partner of Ramaphosa's African National Congress, suggested the salaries earned by managers at struggling power utility Eskom were excessive.