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Durban - Hundreds of workers from the SA Revenue Service (Sars) gathered outside the Durban offices yesterday demanding an 11.5% salary hike, while the tax collection agency is offering 7%.

The action by members of the Public Servants Association (PSA) and National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) yesterday brought the revenue service to a standstill throughout the country.

The strike could disrupt customs operations at national ports of entry including the Durban harbour, which is the country’s busiest port. Airports Company of South Africa spokesperson Nangomso Jacobs could not immediately confirm whether Sars officials at airports had been instructed not to join the strike as these are national key points.

The strike comes a day after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced Edward Kieswetter as the new commissioner.

Phakamani Ndunakazi, Nehawu provincial secretary, said employees were aggrieved by Sars’s decision to take away their benefits such as performance bonuses, and bursaries for employees and dependants and by the salary increase being offered.

He said they were opposed to a multi-term agreement offered by Sars for a three-year period over a sliding scale, and wanted a single term agreement.

On Tuesday, negotiations between Sars, the PSA and Nehawu deadlocked.

“We haven’t heard anything from the employer since then and we are going to intensify the strike. Workers here are collecting a lot of money, but they can’t offer us 11%,” Ndunakazi said.

Sars confirmed it had reached a deadlock in negotiations.

“Sars has explained to organised labour it has a bigger responsibility than only considering current salary increases. It needs to consider the organisation’s financial well-being for the next three years, especially considering the weak economic conditions and Sars’s current and projected budgetary deficits,” Sars said in a statement.

It said an offer to settle for 8% along with other conditions had been made.

“This offer to settle included agreement on an 8% increase in year one aligned to the CCMA proposal, with consumer price index plus 1% increases for years two and three of the agreement.

“If organised labour accept the offer, the dispute will be resolved,” said Sars.

Sars also said it had obtained an interim interdict to prevent union member from picketing in places other than those specified in the CCMA rules.

Sars appealed to the public for patience and recommended that taxpayers use online services.

The Mercury