State mulls jobs freeze

Gov­ern­ment to rein in pub­lic ser­vice salary costs

CityPress - - News - XOLANI MBAN­JWA xolani.mban­jwa@city­press.co.za

The gov­ern­ment is con­sid­er­ing freez­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of un­filled pub­lic ser­vice jobs to curb run­away salary costs. A freeze would also do away with posts that in some in­stances have stood va­cant for months or even years. Re­li­able sources within Cab­i­net in­formed City Press this week that Cab­i­net mem­bers, in­clud­ing Fi­nance Min­is­ter Nh­lanhla Nene and Pub­lic Ser­vice and Ad­min­is­tra­tion Min­is­ter Collins Cha­bane, were look­ing into the pos­si­bil­ity of freez­ing some gov­ern­ment posts and that the dis­cus­sions were still “too sen­si­tive” to talk about pub­licly.

“There are dis­cus­sions within Cab­i­net re­gard­ing va­can­cies and the ques­tion be­ing asked is, do we re­ally need th­ese posts be­cause de­part­ments have not been able to fill them for many months, but they have con­tin­ued to op­er­ate? The think­ing is that gov­ern­ment needs to pre­pare for fu­ture salary in­cre­ments and hav­ing th­ese fully funded posts va­cant is just a waste of re­sources,” said a se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial close to the Cab­i­net dis­cus­sions.

At mu­nic­i­pal level, nearly 50 000 posts are va­cant, ac­cord­ing to Stats SA’s re­port on the non-fi­nan­cial cen­sus of mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, which was re­leased last month. It is not the first time the gov­ern­ment has con­tem­plated freez­ing posts. Dur­ing the pub­lic ser­vice strike in 2010, Cab­i­net an­nounced that it was con­sid­er­ing freez­ing va­cant posts in the pub­lic sec­tor be­cause of huge salary in­creases de­manded by unions.

In 2012, gov­ern­ment also abol­ished all “un­funded” va­can­cies, a decision that con­trib­uted to the sub­stan­tial de­crease in the vacancy rate from 16% in March 2012 to 8.3% last year. Un­funded posts are those that hadn’t al­ready been bud­geted for by the Trea­sury. Only once they were filled would the rel­e­vant de­part­ments seek fund­ing.

The abo­li­tion of th­ese posts came after the gov­ern­ment vowed to keep the vacancy rate be­low the 10% thresh­old in 2012.

The vacancy rate has since hov­ered just above 9% – more than 100 000 posts – but it is un­der­stood the gov­ern­ment is un­happy about de­part­ments con­tin­u­ing to bud­get for posts that they have been un­able to fill.

The Trea­sury and depart­ment of pub­lic ser­vice and ad­min­is­tra­tion re­ferred ques­tions about the new plan to each other.

All Cha­bane’s spokesper­son Brent Si­mons would say was that he was not aware of any dis­cus­sions around a jobs freeze.

Cosatu, the coun­try’s largest pub­lic sec­tor union, said if gov­ern­ment was con­sid­er­ing this, it needed to care­fully think about what kinds of jobs it would put on ice.

Cosatu spokesper­son Pa­trick Craven said: “In prin­ci­ple, va­cant posts should be filled un­less there is a good rea­son they should be not be filled. But that should in­volve unions as well. [They should] be given an op­por­tu­nity to have a say.”

DA shadow min­is­ter for pub­lic ser­vice and ad­min­is­tra­tion Joe McGluwa said although the party was con­cerned about va­cant posts, another ma­jor con­cern was the high num­ber of peo­ple “act­ing” in se­nior po­si­tions at di­rec­tor and deputy di­rec­tor and man­age­ment po­si­tions.

“A skills au­dit must be done be­fore the pub­lic ser­vice jobs are frozen be­cause we need qual­ity peo­ple in the jobs. We need to root out the cor­rup­tion and cadre de­ploy­ment in the em­ploy­ment sys­tem first,” he said.

PHOTO: CHRISTO­PHER FUR­LONG / GETTY IMAGES

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