Public servants told to prepare for strike after wages, benefits deadlock
Public servants have been told to prepare for strike action after the government all but failed to improve its “0%” salary increase offer made last week.
Wage negotiations resumed on Friday at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) and the government presented a revised offer, which unions unanimously rejected.
According to the Public Servants Association (PSA) yesterday, the government’s revised offer would have seen government employees forfeit some of the benefits they currently enjoy to fund part of the 7.1% wage hike they are demanding.
The revised offer would see funds allocated for pay progression, resettlement costs, daily allowances and encashment of leave used to fund the cost-of-living adjustment.
The PSA described the proposal as absurd and said it amounted to nothing more than the shifting of funds.
The government also proposed a review of all public servants’ allowances and their leave dispensation as it believes that there are too many leave categories and allowances for its employees.
Unions rejected any attempt to reduce public servants’ benefits, which they believe they are currently entitled to and were won through years of intense negotiations.
The PSA has advised its more than 235 000 members to prepare for industrial action in order to secure a decent salary increase and protect their existing negotiated benefits.
Eight unions represented at the PSCBC – Cosatu affiliates Nehawu, Popcru, Denosa and Sadtu as well as the Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of SA, the National Teachers' Organisation of SA, PSA and the SA Policing Union – have rejected the government’s revised offer and indicated that a deadlock has been reached.
On Thursday, on the eve of the negotiations, Public Service and Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu claimed the current wage negotiations were the most difficult negotiations between the government and organised labour that the country had ever faced.
Mchunu cited the bad state of the country’s economy, the looming “fiscal cliff”, the impact of Covid-19, the need for drastic changes in the public service as well as the Labour Appeal Court’s December 2020 judgment declaring that the final leg of the 2018 agreement contravened the Constitution.
Unions representing public servants are appealing against the Labour Appeal Court decision at the Constitutional Court, which will hear arguments in the matter in August.
However, Cosatu’s biggest affiliate, Nehawu, said it appeared that war was unavoidable between unions and the government.
The union accused Mchunu of trying to use the media to pacify unions and plead for public sympathy using half-truths, and described the move as part of the broader agenda of undermining collective bargaining by the government.
Nehawu will now engage with other Cosatu affiliates to seek a strike certificate and prepare for full-blown industrial action.