Picture: Se-Anne Rall/IOL
Picture: Se-Anne Rall/IOL

Public servants reject ’ridiculous’ 1.5% wage increase offer

By Tarryn-Leigh Solomons Time of article published May 18, 2021

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Cape Town - The Public Servants Association of South Africa (PSA) say they will not entertain the 1.5% increase offer which was made to the remaining labour parties during the facilitation.

According to Reuben Maleka, acting deputy manager for members’ affairs at the PSA, their exclusion from wage negotiations became clear after learning about what he describes as a ridiculous offer. He said the decision to exclude PSA was childish and displayed a lack of vision by the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) and the unions involved.

On May 11, the PSA, which represents almost 235 000 public servants, filed its dispute for conciliation against the PSCBC. This dispute resulted in the PSA being dismissed from the wage talk’s facilitation process due to the fact that they had declared a dispute with the PSCBC.

Maleka said the conciliation process was a 30-day process. Almost seven days had elapsed and the delay by the Bargaining Council in setting the matter down for conciliation to try to resolve the matter would ultimately lead to strike action.

“Parties in the PSCBC have reached a deadlock during the wage negotiations in the public service as far back as April 23. The parties then entered a 10-day facilitation process with the employer in anticipation that there would be a revised offer from the employer.

“During the facilitation process it became clear to the PSA that the employer had not presented anything new and it subsequently filed for conciliation on May 11. Other unions continued to engage the employer in a facilitation process while the PSA was excluded from this process,” said Maleka.

He added that the offer made was that employees would not receive a pensionable salary increase during 2021, but would have their salaries adjusted by at least 1.5% and a monthly non-pensionable cash gratuity of R978 (depending on their tax bracket it may range around R625.92 after tax) for 12 months.

Maleka said: “They have wasted time and money to host meetings just to have 1.5% offer. Our demand is about 7%, therefore the 1.5% offer is a joke and far from even the CPI (consumer price index) or 2.8% made to municipalities.

“We are writing to the PSCBC to set down our conciliation as we are not going to entertain this ridiculous offer tabled. We want a serious offer so that we can face our members for mandating.”

He added that from clarity obtained, it appears that the 1.5% being offered is already in place in the form of a pay progression for which employees qualify because of satisfactory performance. In essence employees are only offered a non-pensionable gratuity (type of allowance) of R978 before tax.

“This offer is a far cry from the demands tabled by the PSA. Employees are struggling to make ends meet with the rising costs of basic needs and the effects of the pandemic. Front-line workers are still expected to continue to perform their duties under hazardous conditions despite not having received a salary increase for last year.

“The PSA is calling on the employer to seriously consider the offer on the table and come up with serious proposals to break the deadlock.”

Meanwhile, the National Union of Mineworkers has set down talks with the executive management of Eskom for this week. Spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said wage talks would continue until June.

The union has also approached the Constitutional Court in an effort to compel Parliament to intervene in the future of all major state-owned companies (SOCs). Specific reference has been made to SA Express and Denel as both SOCs were on the verge of collapse following decisions made by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, said Hlubi-Majola.

“It must be put to the National Assembly whether Denel or SA Express (SAX), and for that matter any other major SOC, should be wound up or liquidated.

“Parliament’s portfolio committee on public enterprises and/or the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa), and ultimately the National Assembly itself, should be the ones to make the determination on whether SAX and Denel or any other major SOC should be liquidated.

“This is not something that the courts should be given the power to decide on purely from a liquidation perspective given the strategic role these companies play in the economy and the development of the country.

“Should these entities no longer be regarded as strategic assets of the state then Parliament must pass a resolution on this and legislate accordingly. If the decision is that these are strategic entities, then the executive must give effect to acts of Parliament and ensure that these entities are properly funded and resourced.

“The purpose of our Constitutional Court application is to compel the portfolio committee on public enterprises and the standing committee on public accounts to hold public hearings on whether SAX or Denel, or any other similarly placed SOC, should be permitted to go insolvent, and consequently to be liquidated by a court,” Hlubi-Majola said.

She added that SOCs were collapsing because of the Treasury’s strategy of extending guarantees instead of capitalising SOCs, and thus “heads must roll for the unbearable suffering caused by both Gordhan and Mboweni”.

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