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SARS strike: Fresh talks as new boss seeks speedy resolution

Mar 31 2019 14:06
Fin24 Correspondent

Newly appointed SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter is hoping to broker a deal on Sunday with labour unions threatening a total shutdown at the tax collecting agency after wage talks collapsed.

"The incoming commissioner has pleaded that both parties should reach out to each other to resolve the disputes," SARS spokesperson Sicelo Mkosi told Fin24.

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) and the Public Servants Association (PSA), represent about 9 000 workers who have been on strike since Thursday, in a walkout that has affected services at SARS offices, boarder posts and harbours across the country.

They are demanding an 11.4% salary increase across the board and have rejected three offers so far. This includes an initial 7% increase offered by SARS, as well as a differentiated model that would see top performing employees who are paid at the lower-end receive a 9.2% increase.

The revenue service said it can only negotiate within its financial affordability.

"The strike is still ongoing," Nehawu spokesperson Khaya Xaba told Fin24. "We are meeting at 15:00 for a fresh round of negotiations."

The union, which previously claimed that SARS is "hell bent on negotiating in bad faith", expressed uncertainty that a deal will be concluded on Sunday.  "We shall wait and see," Xaba said.

The PSA was more optimistic. "We are not too far apart, so I am hopeful that an agreement can be reached," labour relations officer Stefan Viljoen told Fin24.

SARS also expressed confidence. 

"On the part of SARS, the commitment remains strong to resolve the impasse because it is important to put the foot to the pedal to collect taxes," Mkosi said. 

April 1 marks the start of the new financial year at SARS; and the beginning of the Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) submissions and payments for companies.

"The speedy resolution of the strike is very important because it will affect tax collection," Mkosi concluded.

SARS encouraged tax payers affected by the closure of branches to use its website to handle their tax affairs while the strike continues.

sars  |  strike action
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