Civil servant strike toll unveiled

2011-03-09 12:51

Johannesburg - About 60% of metropolitan adults were considerably inconvenienced by the three-week long public servants' strike last year, a survey released on Wednesday has found.

This was not only "alarmingly high", but was likely to have created other costs on the economy which needed to be considered, said TNS Research Surveys spokesperson Neil Higgs.

He said 2 000 adults in the country's seven major metropolitan areas were asked at the end of 2010 to agree or disagree with the statement: "The public servants' strike caused you a lot of inconvenience".
About 31% disagreed with the statement while 10% were not sure, said Higgs.

Of those surveyed, 1 257 were blacks, 387 whites, 241 coloureds and 115 Indians and Asians. He said the figures had an error margin of less than 2.5%.

He said that while there were differences between race groups, these were relatively small as the inconvenience cut across all groups.

Indians and Asians were the most inconvenienced at 73%, followed by 64% of coloureds, 59% of whites and 58% of blacks.

The Vaal Triangle and South Rand areas, Cape Town and Pretoria were significantly less inconvenienced than any of the other cities at between 50% and 52%.

Soweto, at 76%, and Port Elizabeth, at 75%, were significantly more inconvenienced than other areas.

The strike action lasted for 21 days before public sector unions and the government agreed to increase public workers' salaries by 7.5%, backdated to July 1.

The agreement included an R800 housing allowance, also backdated to July 1.

"Compensation of employees is one of the largest expenditure categories in the state budget," Higgs said.

"Just under 40% of government expenditure constituted wage bills (for public service salaries) in the 2010/11 budget year.

"In addition, the 7.5% wage increase and additional R800 housing allowance constitutes approximately a 1% increase in state spending.

"Therefore, the inconvenience caused is much more than just that, it is also a large expense," he said.

That the wage increase granted was greater than inflation "may have set a precedent that cannot be sustained in future", said Higgs.