Government wants employees’ salaries frozen for three years
Johannesburg - State employees are likely to declare a dispute against the government after it proposed a three-year salary freeze during wage negotiations at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) on Thursday.
The government was responding to public servants’ demand for a 7.1% pay hike.
Talks between the government and its employees resumed at the PSCBC on Thursday for the State’s negotiators to respond to workers’ demands.
Unionists who spoke to Independent Media on Thursday said unions would most likely declare a dispute after the government’s offer.
The government tabled “0% increase for the next three years” only a few months after the National Treasury ordered national and provincial departments to contribute towards reducing the wage bill.
This would mean public servants will not receive any salary increases until at least 2024.
According to the Treasury’s document titled, guidelines for costing and budgeting for compensation of employees for the preparation of expenditure estimates for the 2021 medium term expenditure framework, public servants will not receive increases for the financial years 2020/21, 2021/22, 2022/23 and 2023/24.
The eight unions representing 1.2 million State employees in national and provincial government departments – Nehawu, Denosa, Hospersa, Naptosa, Popcru, PSA, Sadtu and Sapu – are demanding consumer price index (CPI), which is projected at 3.1%, plus 4% across the board on the cost-of-living adjustment.
Other demands include a special risk allowance of 12% of public servants’ basic salary during national disaster situations like the Covid-19 pandemic, R2 500 housing allowance, provision of child care and breast-feeding facilities at all government departments, boarding school subsidies for their children from grades R to 12 as well as bursaries for their offspring.
Government employees are also demanding a greater use of technology, knowledge and innovation as working remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic yielded savings for the government on expenditure on electricity, water, stationery, telephone costs and other daily operating costs.
They argue that the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent national lockdown permanently restructured the workplace, leading to further savings on rental and acquiring of buildings for services that are able to fully operate remotely.
Public servants say the savings can be redirected to compensate them for their operating costs of electricity and use of their premises, and that this arrangement should be permanent and a circumstantial allowance be introduced.
According to the list of demands, immediate action should be taken against prolonged suspensions, which have cost the government R4.5 billion since March 2019, frivolous litigation, mismanagement of funds and corruption, and outsourced contracts when such services can be rendered internally.
In the local government sector, Cosatu affiliate, the SA Municipal Workers Union, has already threatened to take to the streets after the SA Local Government Association (Salga) responded to its R4 000 wage increase demand with a "ridiculous" offer of 2.8% or just R233 for the lowest paid employee.
Salga has also proposed a total freeze on all benefits linked to salaries and an easier mechanism to opt out and for municipalities to apply for exemptions for collective agreements.
”We will be robustly engaging with our members on this ridiculous offer. Given the arrogance and negotiating in bad faith by Salga, we are therefore mobilising and readying our members to ensure that their demands are met,” Samwu indicated.