Unions feel ‘encouraged’

2010-09-01 00:00

CIVIL servants involved in the public sector strike, which has been marred by intimidation and reports of assault, must decide today if they accept government’s new offer … or not.

Government on Monday night tabled a revised wage offer in a meeting between the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the Independent Labour Caucus (ILC) which continued until Tuesday 4 am.

The meeting came about after President Jacob Zuma instructed Public Service and Administration (PSA) Minister Masenyani Richard Baloyi to go back to the negotiation table with the representatives of more than one million public servants who are on strike over pay.

The unions have not confirmed accepting the revised 7,5% salary offer and R800 monthly housing allowance.

The latest offer ups government’s salary bills to just over R76 billion per annum.

Democratic Alliance MP Alf Lees said the latest offer translates to R5,35 billion to the taxpayer.

“Even the last offer (of seven percent) was R5 billion over the budgeted wage bill for the year. A third of every rand goes to salaries,” said Lees.

He said this could be curbed by cutting down employment on a cadre deployment principle. “We need far fewer beauraucrats and more people at service provider level such as teachers and nurses. Our teachers and nurses need to be rewarded adequately,” said Lees.

If the unions do not accept the new offer and press government to fold on their 8,6% salary increment and R1 000 housing allowance, it is estimated that government’s current salary bill would be topped by over R22 billion.

PSA spokesperson Dumisani Nkwamba said Baloyi will elaborate more on the offer and exact figures in monetary terms in a press briefing expected to be held today.

Nkwamba said the department hoped that this was the end of the strike, but that the unions were consulting with their members about the offer.

It was reported yesterday that union representatives were expected to give feedback today.

“Following the president’s directive for the parties to find a solution that would bring the strike to an end as a matter of urgency, government consequently engaged in an intensive dialogue with labour union leaders to find a settlement acceptable to all parties and thus end the two-week public service industrial action,” said Nkwamba.

KZN Cosatu secretary Zet Luzipho said the offer was worth considering.

“If we look at the issues of salary and housing subsidy there’s a huge difference compared to what was initially offered. Yet we still need to hear what our members feel about this, but surely by the turn of the day we will know where we stand,” said Luzipho.

The 245 000-strong National Education Health & Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) said it was “encouraged” by the new offer of a 7,5% salary increase and R800 monthly housing allowance.

It said it was in the process of informing its members of the new offer and would give feedback by tomorrow.

The SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) deputy general secretary Nkosana Dolopi was already garnering responses from its 600 branches.

It was up to Sadtu members to decide, he said.

The Public Servants Association (PSA), with its 210 000 members, said it wanted a speedy resolution.

The strike has severely affected hospital and schooling, with several provinces postponing preliminary matric exams .

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