Mogomotsi Magome

THE government will demand value for taxpayers’ money from public servants after entering into a wage agreement that will see the state’s annual wage bill totalling about R317 billion.

According to Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, the government would be signing an accord with unions that will commit workers to certain productivity levels.

This is expected to be done by the end of next month and is included in the wage agreement.

The government and unions entered into a three-year wage agreement on Tuesday, which will see public sector employees receiving a 7 percent wage increase and a R900 housing allowance.

The unions’ final demand was 7.5 percent, with a housing allowance of R1 500, but they have admitted they had to make some compromises to conclude the wage talks.

According to the wage agreement, the workers will get an increase of the consumer price index plus 1 percent from 2013 to 2015.

Sisulu said yesterday the multi-year agreement would allow the government to focus on implementing other elements of the wage agreement, while focusing on turning around the public service, instead of being held up in negotiations every year.

“The point we were making about the multi-year agreement was that it would give us time to make outstanding implementations and to focus on productivity levels that must be achieved.

“These were tough negotiations and, by their nature, negotiations are always a give-and-take situation. But we must give credit to labour because they managed to lower their expectations and offered us a three-year agreement,” said Sisulu.

She said the Treasury had been kept informed throughout the negotiations as Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan had budgeted for a 5 percent wage increase for public servants.

Sisulu lamented the size of the country’s wage bill, saying it was way too big and created a challenge for the government.

“This R317 billion wage bill is unsustainable for a country growing at the pace that we are at the moment,” said Sisulu.

Independent Labour Caucus (ILC) chairman Chris Klopper said they were pleased with the wage agreement under the circumstances.

“As the ILC, we set ourselves a target of 7 percent as a minimum for the wage increase and nothing less than the consumer price index plus 1 percent over the following years, and that is what we managed to come out with.”