Wage talks down to the wire

The Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) was a buzz of activity yesterday afternoon as government and public service union negotiators arrived ahead of a make-or-break council meeting at 6pm.

The Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) was a buzz of activity yesterday afternoon as government and public service union negotiators arrived ahead of a make-or-break council meeting at 6pm.

Government's chief negotiator Kenny Govender and the unions' chief negotiator Shireen Pardesi were among the first to arrive.

It was expected that unions and government negotiators would meet in separate caucuses at about 5pm - just an hour before a government deadline for the unions to accept a "settlement offer" would lapse.

Negotiations adjourned in the early hours of yesterday when government gave unions a deadline of 6pm to accept its revised offer.

The settlement salary package includes a 7,5percent wage increase.

Unions would give government their answer at full council meeting which was due to start at 6pm.

The government has said if the "settlement" offer was not signed by 6pm, it will revert back to its previous, lesser offer, and make that the final offer.

It's previous offer included a 7,25percent increase but did not contain many of the benefits in the new settlement offer, such as an improved housing allowance or the collapsing of certain lower salary scales into higher ones.

It also did not include any agreement which would see dismissed workers return to work with a final warning rather than being fired.

When public service trade unions decide whether to accept or reject the government's final pay offer, it will not be "one union, one vote".

Voting rights are assigned by the PSCBC to unions according to the size of their membership, and a majority - 50percent plus one - is needed for a deal.

The union with the largest percent of the vote is Sadtu with 23,13 percent. Sadtu has already indicated that it would not accept the offer. Three other Cosatu affiliates have voting rights. They are Nehawu with 16,49percent, Popcru with 10,79percent, and the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa with 5,85percent. - Sapa

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