Zuma gets bosses to agree to pay freeze
A 12-month salary freeze for all top industry executives and government leaders - from President Jacob Zuma down - is one of a number of measures already agreed upon by government, business and labour representatives to try to arrest the wave of illegal strikes sweeping the country.
An urgent meeting of the three social partners was convened on Friday evening by President Zuma, BD Live reports. The meeting aimed to put together a stakeholder agreement which would set out measures and time frames to normalise industrial relations and restore investor confidence.
Two successive downgrades by ratings agencies Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s — the latest announced on Friday just before the summit — have rattled the President and his Cabinet, and prompted appeals by both Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan that government take steps to deal with the crisis.
The tripartite meeting will convene again on Wednesday, after which participants hope to announce a package of measures to calm striking workers and demonstrate to investors that the government is addressing their concerns.
However, several participants said there was already consensus that the 12-month salary freeze for those at the top should be among the immediate measures agreed to.
South Africa is among the countries with the highest income disparities in the world. The Gini coefficient, a measure of inequality, has widened further in the post-apartheid period to 0.7 from 0.66 in 1994.
Zuma and all public representatives were in April awarded a 5.5% wage increase, which took the president’s package to R2.6 million.
Business Unity South Africa president Jabu Mabuza said there was a general recognition that income disparities were playing a role in fuelling strikers’ anger.
"All executives, starting from the president to executives in business, will be asked to show restraint. We must show that we are not only expecting workers to tighten their belts by agreeing not to take salary increases for at least 12 months …. It is wrong that while people are dying for R12,500 a month, there are displays of obscene wealth," Mabuza said.
Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) president Sdumo Dlamini said executive wage restraint would help to promote social cohesion.
"If everyone in the executive and executives in the private sector takes a decision for wage restraint, it will send a strong message that we are confronting the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality," he said.
The rest of the package is under negotiation by a task team of two representatives from each constituency taking part. The agreement will also give greater effect to government programmes. One area will be housing, where discussions are taking place with particular focus on mining communities, where informal housing and the absence of basic services feature strongly in complaints.