Facilitator for public sector wage talks

2011-05-09 17:49

Johannesburg - Public sector unions said on Monday that they planned to engage with the government on appointing an independent facilitator in a bid to broker a wage deal.

Talks between the government and unions reached a deadlock on Saturday, with workers demanding a 10% wage hike and the government offering 5%.

Mugwena Maluleke, speaking on behalf of public sector unions affiliated to trade federation Cosatu, told I-Net Bridge that unions and the government would meet either on Monday or Tuesday to discuss the terms of reference for the appointment of an independent facilitator.

Maluleke said the facilitator could help the parties hammer out a salary deal, noting that negotiations should have been concluded on March 31.

Cosatu unions and the Independent Labour Caucus, which jointly represent about 1.3 million government employees, have stalled.

Maluleke said it was unclear at this stage whether independently facilitated talks would succeed in brokering a wage settlement.

If the facilitator failed to broker a deal, unions would go back to the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council and decide which options to exercise.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was quoted this morning on East Coast Radio as saying that public servants must be reasonable in their wage demands.

The government, the unions said in a joint statement, had not addressed other outstanding issues like housing and medical aid.

"Unions have indicated at the time of declaring a deadlock that they are available 24 hours, seven days a week to negotiate and reach an agreement," they said.

The unions said they tabled their initial demand of a 10% salary increase as early as February. The employer only responded on March 22, with an offer of 4.8%, which "we rejected", they said.

On April 21, the government tabled a 5% offer "which we also rejected", the unions said.