06/11/2012 Governor of the SA Reserve Bank, Gill Marcus holds new banknotes that bares the face of former president Nelson Mandela during the fisrt official transaction of the notes in Pretoria. Picture: Phill Magakoe

Johannesburg - Unions must realise that getting higher wages for workers could be at the cost of jobs, SA Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus told Numsa delegates on Wednesday.

She was speaking in Johannesburg at a National Union of Metalworkers of SA conference, held to decide on 2013's bargaining strategy.

“It is very important to realise that there is a potential worsening of the situation,” said Marcus, after presenting an overview of the global economic situation where a number of global trading partners were either in decline or teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.

“Higher wages might well be granted, but it could be at the cost of employment,” she cautioned.

“That is one of the factors that we face... that the higher wage bill might affect employment.”

She said there was no question that extreme poverty needed to be addressed and there was a high level of inequality in society.

But there had been a rise in the black working class and one had to look at the nature of increasing “black-black” inequality.

It was imperative that workers and organised labour understood the companies and the sectors they worked in and that they understood profit and loss.

Earlier, delegates heard that union members were no longer prepared to accept CPI-linked increases as these were not related to the real costs they faced and were not changing their lives.

Marcus acknowledged the Congress of SA Trade Unions' call for intervention in the rand/dollar exchange rate to set it at a rate that might be favourable for export sectors such as theirs - a suggested R8.50.

But she said: “We do not fix the exchange rate, we do not target the exchange rate.”

This was because the rand was “a very open currency”, traded in many areas and was “far too big for us to influence”. - Sapa