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Public service wage talks deadlock

Public service salary negotiations have deadlocked over wage demands, two unions say

“The Cosatu unions and the Independent Labour Caucus (ILC), representing 14 unions and approximately 1.3 million employees of the state in the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC), reached a deadlock with the employer last night on public service wage negotiations,” the unions said in a joint statement.    

However, the ministry of public service and administration denied there had been a deadlock and accused the unions of negotiating through the media.

“There is no breakdown in negotiations as far as government is concerned,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The process of salary negotiations in its nature is a challenging one that is ongoing until a compromise is reached.”   

The unions said they had in February demanded a 10 percent salary increase.

The state counter-offered with a 4.8% offer, which labour  rejected.

On April 21, government offered five percent, which the unions also rejected.

“The projected CPI [consumer price inflation] for 2011 is 4.8 percent. In light of the present increases in the prices of food, electricity, and fuel, as well as the expected increase in the prime bank rate, a real increase of 0.4% is totally unacceptable,” the unions said.    

“Our demands essentially aim to ensure that workers are not the hardest hit given our unpredictable economic trends.”    

The unions accused the employer of a “lack of urgency” in finalising negotiations to implement salary increases by May 1.

The deadlock on Thursday evening “came after the employer tabled  a meagre revised offer of a 5.1 then 5.2% increase in response to our compromise demand of a 9% increase”.

“It is important to note that the employer has only moved by 0.4  percent which demonstrates their unwillingness to conclude these negotiations amicably.”    

The Minister for Public Service and Administration Richard Baloyi “expresses shock at the decision by the unions at the...PSCBC to communicate the 2011/2012 wage negotiations through the media,” his ministry said.

“The decision to embark on a media briefing by the unions today has taken place irrespective of an agreement between government and  the unions to negotiate behind closed doors in the interest of promptly finding an amicable position.”   

The ministry said Baloyi was also “engaging at a higher level with his counterparts to ensure the process soon reaches finality”.

The unions said the state had not addressed other outstanding issues, including housing and medical aid demands.

An outside facilitator might now be called in to help the parties reach an agreement.

  • Last year, public servants went on a three-week, sometimes violent, strike over failed salary negotiations that crippled schools and public hospitals. The parties eventually settled on a 7.5% wage increase.

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