26 September 2023

SOUTH AFRICA: Bitter dispute predicted after pay demand

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The South African Government appears to be set for a bitter dispute with its employees after public sector unions set out demands for a one-year agreement and a 10 per cent pay rise.

Unions representing Public Servants formally tabled their position at the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC), which is to handle the negotiations.

Other demands seen by journalists include a R2,500 ($A222) increase in the housing allowance, the introduction of a bursary scheme for the children of Public Servants, and relief funds for disaster periods such as the COVID-19-related lockdowns.

The unions also want Public Servants to have easy access to pension savings if they fall on hard times.

The Department of Public Service and Administration (responsible for public sector employment conditions) and the National Treasury will almost certainly oppose an increase of 10 per cent in pay, which is well above consumer inflation, currently standing at 5.9 per cent.

In addition, the Treasury has already committed to not award Public Servants inflation-beating wage increases because it wants to wrestle down the wage bill to more affordable levels.

However, trade unions believe Public Servants — many of whom are on the front line against the COVID-19 pandemic — have made enormous sacrifices for the Government over the past two years and deserve recompense.

In a background briefing to journalists, a union official said Public Servants had not been awarded inflation-linked wage adjustments for the past two years because Treasury had embarked on a wage freeze to rein in ballooning Government expenditure and debt.

“Public Servants deserve this increase now,” the official said.

Pretoria, 7 May 2022

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