Public sector unions want 12% of basic salary Covid-19 risk allowance

Public sector unions have begun salary negotiations with the state
Public sector unions have begun salary negotiations with the state

Public sector unions want a general salary rise of consumer inflation plus 4% for all workers, a document they presented to the government showed on Monday, as talks began on a wage deal seen as key to helping the government contain its spiralling debt.

The list of 16 demands, which includes better housing payments and a risk allowance of 12% of basic salary due to the Covid-19 pandemic, comes amid a court fight between the unions representing more than 1 million teachers, nurses and police and the state over salaries.

Public sector unions, including those from the Cosatu federation aligned with the ANC, have approached the country's highest court to try to force the National Treasury to pay the final tranche of the preceding three-year wage settlement struck in 2018.

“We make an appeal to government to negotiate with us in good faith and not come there with already made-up positions, because that is going to cause a strike,” said Mugwena Maluleke, a senior wage negotiator for Cosatu.

Workers received their salary hikes in the first two years, but the National Treasury balked at paying around R37bn for the final year starting in April 2020, saying the final hike was unaffordable amid the economic devastation caused by Covid-19.

Finance minister Tito Mboweni pledged in October to freeze public sector wages for the next three years to help contain a gaping budget deficit weighing on the economy, with civil servants' salaries making up around a third of consolidated state spending.

In December, the labour appeals court ruled in the Treasury's favour, but the unions quickly challenged the judgment at the Constitutional Court, which is yet to hear the matter.

A spokesperson for the department of public service & administration refrained from commenting on the latest wage demands, saying that the negotiations had only just begun.

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