Naledi Pandor. File Image.
JOHANNESBURG - Public sector unions have warned of a shutdown in the public service next month if the government failed to meet their members’ wage demands.

The unions yesterday accused the government of taking its cue on the ongoing public sector wage negotiations from international ratings agencies.

They flatly rejected the acting Minister for Public Service and Administration Naledi Pandor’s request on Monday for more time from the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) to conduct further consultations on the negotiations. 

Mugwena Maluleke, the convenor of COSATU unions in the PSCBC, said rating agencies were running the affairs of the government. 

“We are here to stamp the authority of the voters of this country. We cannot auction the power the government has to international ratings agencies,’’ Maluleke said.

“This is what the so-called consultation by Pandor means. In reality, what she meant was consultation with rating agencies and we cannot accept that.”

The unions, which include the Public Servants Association (PSA), Popcru, Denosa, Sadtu, Naptosa, Nehawu, Sapu and Hospersa said their members would embark on daily pickets from Thursday next week as a precursor to the total shutdown if the wage settlement was not reached.  

Public Service and Administration spokesperson Mava Scott said the department would not be commenting on the unions’ accusations.  

But this week Pandor said said that the mandate committee had decided to “broaden its consultation within government and thus ask the council to grant it more time to finalise its internal processes before any new round of negotiation can commence.”

Resizing

The acrimonious negotiations last week saw unions locking in state negotiators at the PSCBC offices in Centurion, Gauteng demanding a conclusion to the talks.

Citadel chief economist Maarten Ackerman said the resizing of the public service remained one of the most important steps that the government needed to take to reignite the economy. 

He said the actual headcount in the public service should be reduced and wages should increase in line with inflation.

“If we implement the correct policy to get the economy growing and jobs created, the private sector should be able to absorb the excess jobs in the public sector. 

"South Africa needs to reduce the size of the public sector size relative to the private sector,” Ackerman said.

In October, the unions tabled a consolidated demand of a 12 percent increase for employees on salary levels 1-7, 11 percent for workers on salary levels 8-10 and 10 percent for employees on salary levels 11-12.

The government offered consumer price index (CPI) plus 1.5 percent for employees on salary levels 1-7, CPI plus 1 percent for employees on salary levels 8-10 and CPI plus 0.5 percent for employees on salary levels 11-12.

The unions, however, accused President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration of backtracking from this offer and seeking a new mandate from the government.

Momentum Investments economist Sanisha Packirisamy said South Africa’s civil servant wage bill as a share of the gross domestic product (GDP) remained one of the highest from its emerging market peer group.  

“It is imperative government starts linking wages to productivity in the public sector,’’ Packirisamy said.

-BUSINESS REPORT