Pretoria News

THREE-YEAR SALARY FREEZE LOOMS

Government responds to demands for 7.1% increase with ’0%’ wage hike

- LOYISO SIDIMBA

PUBLIC servants appear to be on another collision course with the government, after it tabled a salary freeze for the next three years, in response to demands for a 7.1% pay hike.

Talks between the government and its employees resumed at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) yesterday, for the state’s negotiator­s to respond to workers’ demands.

Unionists who spoke to Independen­t Media yesterday said unions would most likely declare a dispute after the government’s offer.

The government tabled “0% increase for the next three years” only a few months after the National Treasury ordered national and provincial department­s to contribute towards reducing the wage bill.

This would mean public servants will not receive any salary increases until at least 2024.

According to the Treasury’s document titled: “Guidelines for costing and budgeting for compensati­on of employees for the preparatio­n of expenditur­e estimates for the 2021 medium term expenditur­e framework”, public servants will not receive increases for the financial years 2020/21, 2021/22, 2022/23 and 2023/24.

The eight unions representi­ng 1.2 million state employees in national and provincial government department­s – Nehawu, Denosa, Hopsersa, Naptosa, Popcru, PSA, Sadtu and Sapu – are demanding consumer price index (CPI), which is projected at 3.1%, plus 4% across the board on the cost-of-living adjustment. Other demands include a special risk allowance of 12% of public servants’ basic salary during national disaster situations like the Covid19 pandemic, R2 500 housing allowance, provision of child care and breast-feeding facilities at all government department­s, boarding school subsidies for their children from grades R to 12, as well as bursaries for their offspring.

Government employees are also demanding a greater use of technology, knowledge and innovation, as working remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic yielded savings for the government on expenditur­e on electricit­y, water, stationary, telephone costs and other daily operating costs.

They argue that the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent national lockdown permanentl­y restructur­ed the workplace, leading to further savings on rental and acquiring of buildings for services that are able to fully operate remotely.

Public servants say the savings can be redirected to them to ensure that their operating costs of electricit­y and premises are compensate­d, and that this arrangemen­t should be permanent and a circumstan­tial allowance be introduced.

According to the list of demands, immediate action should be taken against prolonged suspension­s, which have cost the government R4.5 billion since March 2019, frivolous litigation, mismanagem­ent of funds and corruption, and outsourced contracts when such services can be rendered internally.

In the local government sector, Cosatu affiliate, the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu), has already threatened to take to the streets after the SA Local Government Associatio­n responded to its R4 000 wage increase demand with a “ridiculous” offer of 2.8% or just R233 for the lowest paid employee. Salga has also proposed a total freeze on all benefits linked to salaries.

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HERBERT MATIMBA ?? COSATU and other unions protesting in Pretoria against the 6% wage increase. The government is now offering workers a 0% increase.
| HERBERT MATIMBA COSATU and other unions protesting in Pretoria against the 6% wage increase. The government is now offering workers a 0% increase.
 ??  ?? MINISTER of Public Service and Administra­tion Senzo Mchunu
MINISTER of Public Service and Administra­tion Senzo Mchunu

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