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ROUNDUP: Where to next for public sector wage deal?

May 22 2018 17:56
Tehillah Niselow

Johannesburg- The Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) announced on Friday that after seven months of negotiations, government and unions have concluded talks and parties will convene on Monday to sign the agreement.

However, so far only one union - the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) - has inked the deal, while several have rejected it, others are still consulting their members and one union is threatening to strike.

The three-year wage deal will see 7% increases for junior employees for 2018/2019, while mid-level employees will receive 6.5% increases and senior staff will see raises of 6%.

The increases for the second and third years of the wage agreement are on a sliding scale. It will also de-link spousal housing allowances for junior employees from September and for mid-level and senior staff 12 months later.

Unions who tabled their demands in October initially wanted increases of between 10% and 12%.

Fin24 took a closer look at where the deal stands for the main parties.

Government: no room to manoeuvre

The Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) is hopeful that all 19 unions represented at the PSCBC will sign the deal on the table before it lapses within the next three weeks.

“If 21 days have lapsed, we will have to decide whether to go ahead [and implement the deal] or re-open the negotiations”, DPSA spokesperson Mava Scott told Fin24 on Tuesday.

But Scott said it is unlikely government’s offer will increase, as Treasury is juggling spending pressures and the DPSA is looking to restructure the public sector wage bill, which forms 35% of the 2018/2019 budget.

“There’s no room to manoeuvre. We have already exceeded the amount that we intended to offer them,” Scott commented.

Independent Labour Caucus: waiting game

Twelve unions make up the Independent Labour Caucus and have 42% representation at the PSCBC, while the seven large public sector unions affiliated to the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) make up the majority.

Four unions belonging to this bloc - the Public Servants Association (PSA), the National Teachers’ Union, the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers and the Hospital Personnel Association of SA - have rejected the wage deal on the table.

ILC chairperson Basil Manuel said that the eight other unions are still consulting their members.

“Everybody is playing the signing game, people are waiting to see who will sign,” said Manuel.

He added that that the chances of government improving its wage offer are slim. He believes unions should accept the deal so that they can focus on other issues at the PSCBC, such as danger allowances, medical aid and leave.

PSA: strike on the cards?

The Public Servants Association is part of the ILC and the only union that has declared a dispute thus far. It has been outspoken about rejecting the deal and is working on balloting its members towards a strike.

The PSA has accused Cosatu unions of cosying up to President Cyril Ramaphosa, and is sticking to its demand for 10% wage increases across the board.

Deputy general manager Tahir Maepa said on Tuesday that the balloting process of its 238 000 members is 45% complete and it hopes to finish by the end of the week.

“Overwhelmingly people want to go on strike, I don’t see it changing.”

The PSA doesn’t constitute the majority of civil servants but has warned that the union has members in key sectors such as immigration and the courts, and will shut these services down through industrial action.

Cosatu

Six Cosatu unions are consulting their members about the offer on the table, as only Popcru has signed.

Several members of Cosatu-affiliated unions have expressed unhappiness with the agreement on social media and it is still unclear when the affiliates will ink the deal.

The ANC’s labour ally faces the difficult juggling act of having backed Ramaphosa as ANC president, while he’s moved through the DPSA to start restructuring the size and cost of government.

Ramaphosa’s address on Tuesday morning to the Cosatu central executive committee was closed to the media. According to an insider, he mentioned the public sector wage bill together with free higher education and state-owned enterprise bailouts as part of the budget crisis the state faces.

popcru  |  cosatu  |  psa  |  public sector  |  wage increase  |  labour  |  unions  |  public servants
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