Picture: Ziphozonke Lushaba/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - The National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) said on Thursday its members had gone on strike at the South African Revenue Service to press for higher wages.

Thousands of workers affiliated to Nehawu and the Public Servants Association (PSA) are demanding an 11.5 percent increase, while Sars is offering seven percent.

The strike could disrupt customs operations at national ports of entry and enable the flow of drugs and illicit goods.

Sars workers have rejected mediator Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration's (CCMA) proposal of an eight percent increase across the board, among other agreements.

Nehawu spokesperson Khaya Xaba said workers would not back down on their demands. 

"I can confirm that Sars is 100 percent shut down because workers want an 11.5 percent increase, not the seven percent slave wages. The strike is on and will go on until Sars management meets our demands," Xaba said.

"All our members and those of the PSA are part of the strike. There is no planned meeting with Sars today but if they want to meet we are always available."

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.

On Wednesday, Sars confirmed it had reached a deadlock in negotiations with unions over salary increases and improvements in conditions of service and benefits for bargaining unit employees, after months of negotiations which commenced in November 2018.

Sars said it had put necessary contingency measures in place in a bid to have minimal disruption to taxpayer services across its branches and ports of entry.

"While Sars recognises the constitutional right of workers to strike, it is equally cognizance of the state's obligation to ensure that it has adequate resources to provide citizens with access to healthcare services, sufficient food and water, social support, housing and basic education," it said.

"It is therefore in the public interest that this dispute be resolved given due regard to Sars' crucial role in revenue collection."

Sars said it was seeking intervention by the CCMA

African News Agency/ANA