WHO IS AT THE TAlLE?
There are about 16 public sector unions representing 1.3 million workers in the top two levels of government - national and provincial, but excluding municipalities.
The bulk of the workers are teachers, police officers and health workers.
Teachers’ union Sadtu is the largest with more than 250 000 members, followed by the nonCosatu Public Service Association with 212 000 members.
Cosatu’s general public service affiliate Nehawu has 180 000 members, and police union Popcru has about 150 000 members.
THE GOVERNMENT WAGE lILL
The South African government employs nearly 2 million people across national and provincial departments, municipalities and other state-owned entities.
This colossal workforce now costs roughly R440 billion a year – 35% of the entire national budget – and has been the backbone of household income in the lean years since 2009.
In the core national and provincial departments, there are roughly 1.5 million people.
Despite commonplace perceptions that the civil service has ballooned out of proportion since 1994, it has really only grown by 25%.
Most of that growth was in the past six years as the state has kept the crisis-stricken economy going by hiring and paying well.
Up to 2005, the civil service was actually smaller than in 1994 as the fiscal discipline of the Growth, Employment and Redistribution strategy years and the redundancies caused by merging the old white state with the bantustans were eliminated. deal in 2012 that guaranteed inflation plus 1%.
Apart from the PSCBC wage talks, the commission of inquiry into remuneration and conditions of service in public service and public entities is still ongoing.
President Jacob Zuma appointed the commission in August last year. Initially, it had eight months, but that has been extended to April next year.
The commission’s terms of reference mostly relate to critically interrogating the inefficiencies and potential unsustainability of the state’s wage bill.
Public sector wage deals are virtually always inflationlinked, usually with a relatively small percentage on top of the reigning inflation rate.
Since the PSCBC was created in 1998, entry-level wages in government have increased from R19 002 to R67 806 a year (
In real terms, adjusted for inflation, the improvement was still spectacular – a doubling of the lowest salaries and a 160% real improvement at the high (level 12) end of the scale to R743 076 today.
But these figures are misleading because the Occupational Specific Dispensation has introduced a massive fragmentation in salary levels for every specific occupation.
The result is that government’s wage tables take up almost 100 pages with salary notches prescribed in finite detail for everything from town planners and scientists to ambulance drivers and social workers.
The salaries in question range from R5 000 a month to more than R100 000.