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All proposals will be considered at Friday’s public sector wage negotiations

Government calls for calm as some unions have threatened industrial action over wages.
Image: Supplied

On Friday public sector unions and the government will once again meet at the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) where both parties will negotiate over contentious salary increases for public servants.

Although the government is not expected to back down on its salary freeze for SA’s 1.3 million public servants during the 2021/22 financial year, Public Service and Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu says all proposals on the negotiating table will be considered.

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Speaking at a media briefing on Thursday, Mchunu said the government will be engaging in the negotiations with the aim of not seeking to win but rather to be understood. He admitted that the long-drawn-out wage negotiations have proven to be difficult in the face of a constrained fiscus exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The deadlock in negotiations has caused the next round of negotiations for the 2021/2022 financial year to run behind schedule. However, Mchunu says the government has never had a resolution to undermine collective bargaining.

Bringing in an outsider

For Friday’s talks, the government has enlisted the services of an independent facilitator who is tasked with ensuring that the government’s team “should not take posture of people who want to win – the country has to win – not the government’s team. We need to move away from and avoid separation – there is no ‘us and them’,” says Mchunu.

“The situation in the chamber [PSCBC] requires parties there to put [out] demands and responses …. engagement [is required to be] raised to a level where there is an amicable outcome of negotiations,” he said.

The government has previously argued that the sustainability of the public finances bill depends on its ability to reduce growth in the public service wage bill.

According to the February 2021 budget, spending on public servant wages is likely to decrease from 61.1% of provincial budgets to 60.8% over the medium term.

Read:
Treasury puts the brakes on the wage bill (February 2021)
No more funds available to be reprioritised for public sector wages (March 2021)

Tough talk

Friday’s negotiations follow a warning by the Public Servants Association(PSA), which represents more than 235 000 state employees, that its members could down tools over the state’s failure to implement the third leg of a 2018 wage deal.

Mchunu previously said in court papers that the government would be required to borrow more than R78 billion if the last leg of the three-year wage deal was implemented.

Cosatu’s chief negotiator Mugwena Maluleke says Friday’s negotiations represent a “crossroads” for the various parties involved because if no deal is struck, trade unions would have to declare a dispute.

“Our expectation is that the employer should respond positively to our demands…we expect them to show that the people they are negotiating with are at the frontlines of the pandemic and are essential,” he said.

The PSA, other trade unions affiliated to Cosatu, and the Federation of Unions of SA have tabled a salary increase proposal of consumer price inflation plus 4%. The demand is above February’s 2.9% inflation and the SA Reserve Bank’s forecast of an average of 4.3% inflation for 2021.

Other demands include a R2 500 housing allowance and a payout of 12% of a public servant’s salary if they are affected by Covid-19.

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COMMENTS   26

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This is going to be interesting. Will the government fold? Perhaps they should give certain people a raise, like hospital workers that worked at the front of the pandemic.

Of course they will fold at the last minute. After all, they need the votes and you will end up paying for it. Ask Pravin.

The problem with the public service is a bloated and overpaid management structure, many of whom are not qualified to do their jobs. If they cut people at that level they could save a lot. It should be easy to get rid of all the unqualified people, because at best they are adding no value, but are likely cause damage through incompetence.

Who cares about incompetence. Its the vote that counts.
Who cares about the integrity and authenticity of qualifications. Its the vote that counts.
Who cares about the damage that is caused. Its the vote that counts and you pick up the tab for this in any case.

It’s not so much about qualifications as skills ; and a lot of unnecessary positions created for patronage and related purposes.

This wideheld idea that being tough on a relative minority, Gov employees, is bad for votes is off course ridiculous. It is better for the whole country, for the majority that Gov expenditure is controlled and seriously reined in. Gov is so weak at the knees, so spineless that it always gives in to the slightest pressure of relative small groups.
Compare that to the undue, undeserved massive influence of taxi bosses (Read: the Taxi Mafia) has on Gov’s transport decisions.
I suspect this Mafia also to be behind most of the destruction and burning of train carriages and rail infrastructure.

This is absolute lunacy. It is already a well known fact that government employees earn wages well above industry equivalents, why do they NEED increases? Most people have had to make adjustments to their living expenses, why are they exempt?

You don’t give people a raise for doing their job. A bonus, yes, if they’ve done something over and above what they’ve been paid to do.

Give them the raise they want but also negotiate to cut number of people to get wage bill back below the budget level. Private sector faced many retrenchments so why not government employees? Far too many sitting on their behinds not doing anything useful judging by lack of service delivery etc. Pay the ones who do work….but that would take management skill, which is sadly lacking, to implement…

Cut back on staff??? Good luck with that.

Due to Covid-19 and at lack of funds, the best proposal is retrenchments or a salary decrease.

For the country to win, the unions will have to lose. One million fat cats, who gobble up more than half of all taxes collected, but do very little in return, cannot be allowed to continue holding 57 million others to ransom. The only negotiations should be about what percentage above 30% of the public alleged service should be retrenched.

My take is simple…if there’s so much money to loot, why there’s so less to improve the living conditions of public servants? There are many things which waste state money and time, like this flawed PMDS system which is used to suffocate junior staff while middle and senior management benefit and seemingly enrich themselves…

Same goes with corruption, management have all the lucrative perks but still they loot and abuse state resources which often leaves junior employees in awe in their pittance but quite often calls to reduce the workforce are directed at the very junior officials.

A freeze on the increment for cabinet and all government management would be a befitting approach to nearly balance the tipping scales though by far lesser margin.

While I see your point, this is not a either/or scenario. Both public wages and corruption need to be reduced drastically. The state can never play the leading role in employment in a functioning economy, over employment by the state is also a form of wasteful expenditure.

Maybe try the same trick as proposed in a previous cycle. Reduce pension benefits for future retirees out of GEPS thereby reducing contributions and delivering a ‘raise’ to staff. GEPS defined benefits already massively better than what poor private sector employees have to deal with given their forced support of local investments via Reg 28 and defined contribution schemes.

Its high time the Unions are taught a lesson they will never forget! Employees in the public sector are fortunate to still have jobs. There are many in the private (and informal) sectors of the economy who have lost theirs through retrenchment; had to accept pay cuts, no salary increases and/or bonusses. Unions must realise that their unrealistic wage demand cannot be met. So, bring it it on! No work, no pay, no jobs!

High time that the unions are broken. Public servants are generally incompetent and lazy as it is. They depend on the unions to fight their wars.

Considering that the public sector wage bill is 43% of revenue, the budget deficit is 14% of GDP, the debt/GDP is nearing 100%, the GEPF is the largest lender to the government, under a junk-status credit rating, it follows that the Cosatu members will be funding their entire wage demands out of their own pension funds.

The Cosatu members are demanding that the ANC, their alliance partner, plunder their pension savings to finance their wage increases. These clowns are trying to reach consensus at the PSCBC on how they will steal from each other in an orderly fashion!

We naively expect these ignorant opportunistic fools not to steal from us, while they are busy stealing from themselves!

Except of course, for the fact that we underwrite the GEPF. If the prescribed funding level drops below 90% it has to be topped up from state revenue. No skin off the unions’ noses.

Eventually it will have to be recognised that the GEPF is not like private sector funds, it is in substance a side-pocket of the state. GEPF funds will be used, one way or another, to offset Eskom debt, among other things, because ‘that’s where the money is’. Reducing the prescribed funding level to say, 60% would immediately free up R600bn of reserves. But it can only be done once !

The nominal value of the government pension, like government bonds, is guaranteed by the government, by the taxpayer actually. The purchasing power of that pension or bond is not guaranteed though. This is where the plunder occurs. Ask the Zimbabweans who had millions in their pension funds before hyperinflation destroyed the purchasing power.

The debt levels in South Africa can only be serviced by devaluing the debt through the process of inflation. Inflation is an unseen tax. Everyone who holds the currency pays the tax, but those individuals who own government bonds in their pension funds pay twice.

58% of the tax income goes to 2,5% of the population (Schussler), that 2,5% are the government employees.

They are eating the poor people’s lunch.

Convert the GEPF into a defined contribution scheme.

Let the members choose whether they withdraw their retirement savings and fill their pockets, or invest in infraaaastrrrrruuuucttttuuuuure.

And they will get free unlimited mobile ‘phone data. Wotta life!

Can Govt and Eskom be as tough towards the trade unions for wage negotiations as Eskom has been with private IT company Oracle ?
Oracle claimed R 7 Billion + from Eskom as Eskom was accused of heavily unauthorised use of the Oracle software. Eskom refused bitterly, and said it only wants to pay R 166 million. Oracle climbed down to R 600m, then R 400m. And now withdrew their support.
Below an article about this Oracle issue on MyBB I wrote this:
I propose Eskom offers the trade unions a wage reduction of 60% for the lower paid workers who already earn minimum salaries of R 25k pm + perks, and 80% for the higher echelons. And a wage freeze of 20 years, combined with a reduction of the work force of 60%. As the unions demand a 15% increase they can conclude on 30% wage reduction for the lower paid loafers, 50% for the overpaid higher ranked people, and a mere wage freeze of 10 years. Plus a 30% reduction of the workforce to bring it back to the same level as 2007, when Eskom only had 32,000 employees, but produced more electricity. Now Eskom has about 46,500 at the moment, already a bit down from the nearly 49k of three years back.
Gov can take a similar approach with their workers.

Not giving a increase will also be devastating to the Economy…..less money to spend? The ANC government has a problem!

Industrial action???

Are they energetic enough for that. while they strike I don’t think we will notice the difference.

End of comments.

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