Take it easy on pay demands, says govt

CIVIL servants will have "to temper their demands for wage increases" due to the present recession and the resulting shortfall of billions of rands in revenue collection, government warned yesterday.

CIVIL servants will have "to temper their demands for wage increases" due to the present recession and the resulting shortfall of billions of rands in revenue collection, government warned yesterday.

Government will put its cards on the table about its shrinking spending power when it starts negotiating with trade unions, spokesperson Themba Maseko told reporters at the fortnightly Cabinet briefing.

"It is tough times which call for tough choices to be made. It is absolutely essential firstly for the leaders of the unions, but secondly for the country as a whole, to understand what this recession means for our economy, the constraints that it places on us as a government. One of the most immediate consequences of this recession is that there is a decline in tax collections."

Maseko was referring to Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan's announcement that revenue collection was R19billion lower than expected - and that this could increase to R60billion by year's end.

He said the state could not afford to spend all the money at its disposal on wage increases because it would have nothing left for other essential services.

"We still need to buy textbooks for learners; we still need to buy medical supplies; we still need to fix a lot of the things that are broken in our public hospitals; so not all the cash that is available, for example in the health budget, can actually be brought into the salaries."

In addition, Cabinet was expecting pleas from struggling state-owned enterprises for further cash injections, he said, but declined to name the parastatals.

Maseko said however that "at the same time we are committed to making sure that any offer we put on the table is as reasonable as possible, but also it must be affordable".

He said government was half expecting to enter a "strike season" as poorly renumerated civil servants ask for redress, but hoped they would reconsider before downing tools.

Maseko brushed aside suggestions that ministers should accept austerity cuts on their own pay packages - or that President Jacob Zuma's decision to create six new ministries - at a still unknown cost - should be postponed. - Sapa

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