The government had yesterday afternoon still made no new offer at a special bargaining council meeting with public sector unions.
The meeting was called to discuss the wage dispute.
Union negotiators, who did not want to be identified while negotiations were ongoing, said there was "no new offer on the table". It was likely that strike action planned for June 1 would proceed.
The government requested yesterday's meeting in Centurion to discuss the impasse, but it almost collapsed before it started when the government said it would refer its dispute with essential service workers to arbitration.
South African Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu) general secretary Thulas Nxesi said: "We don't want any arbitration. If there is to be forced arbitration, it must be something agreed to by all parties, so even that issue is becoming an obstacle for the real negotiations."
After several hours, the unions started negotiations with the government at about 3.30pm.
"We are here to listen to what the offer is. If there is anything we can take back to our members, we would take this back. But we still don't know what it is," Nxesi said.
Lewis Rabkin, spokesman for the Public Service and Administration Department, would not be drawn on whether the government had upped its 6percent offer.
"I don't know. I haven't been in there. They have started negotiating, and obviously we can't negotiate through the media," he said. - Sapa