‘Leaving my guns behind’ – Sisulu

2012-06-19 10:37

Newly appointed Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has extended an olive branch to public sector unions, saying “I am leaving my guns behind”.

“I am not going to hold a gun to the head of labour,” the former defence minister said, but added government could not offer unions more than the 6.5% wage increase already on the table.

Speaking in Pretoria at her first press conference since last week’s Cabinet reshuffle, she invited unions back to the table after wage talks deadlocked last week.

She said the current offer, which totals 9% and is well above inflation when the 2.5% increase in benefits is added, will cost government R30 billion, which is R8.1 billion more than the 5% increase National Treasury originally budgeted for.

The fact that the increase was higher than the amount budgeted was already an indication of government’s goodwill, she said.

“When we offered 5% we realised it was below CPI,” she said.

Unions have demanded an 8% wage increase and have declared a wage dispute.

Sisulu said the picture painted by the media of her as a union basher, based on the harsh action she took against defence force unions, was incorrect.

“I don’t have horns, I am not the devil,” she said, adding there was no place in policy for unions in the defence force.

She said she hoped to negotiate a service charter with unions to deal with salary increases based on performance, but also with what kind of action is acceptable in strikes.

In this regard she said she was disappointed that the Constitutional Court last week ordered that unions would be liable for damage to private property during strike action.

“We were hoping that this could have been part of the charter instead of having it forced down their throat,” she said.

She said the charter would also outline what government considered to be essential services.

Sisulu also said she would insist on a multi-year agreement.

A single-year agreement as the unions are insisting on “will be disastrous for us”, she said, “because every year we spend seven months negotiating to get to the same point”.

Sisulu again denied that her move was a demotion, saying civil service has been the “biggest stumbling block” to service delivery.

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