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Calls for multi-year public service wage

Aug 15 2012 15:00
Cape Town - The National Planning Commission called for a multi-year public service salary determination process to help keep the wage bill sustainable.

In its revised plan released on Wednesday, the commission warned that the wage bill was set to exceed a third of total state expenditure, echoing concerns voiced by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

"The levels need to be sustainable. The commission recommends that multi-year agreements be reached on public-service pay, and this is determined in line with the national budget process."

It also recommended that the public sector bargaining council be broken into different chambers, judging that pervasive pay dispute strikes were due in part to conflation between different work sectors.

It called for a clear definition of essential public services, and alternatives to resolving disputes in those sectors, including health, education and policing, than strike action.

The call for a definition is pertinent to the Labour Relations Amendment Bill, which is part of a labour law regime overhaul criticised by business as "regressive".

The commission appears to be at odds here with the Congress of SA Trade Unions, which last month called for more flexible processes defining essential services.

The NPC's proposals on probation periods also seem to call for fine-tuning in the bill, which calls for all employers to be considered permanent staff after six months.

It said it should be clear in law that employers can appoint workers on a probation period of up to six months without ordinary, unfair dismissal protection coming into play.

"Uncertainty about the application of current provisions undermines the willingness of firms to hire inexperienced workers."

Overall the NPC maintained its original, cautious call for greater labour market flexibility, without demanding drastic law changes.

It said the market must become more responsive in order to expand employment opportunities, and allow the country to move "progressively" to the vision of decent work.

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