Johannesburg – The South African Policing Union wants the salary of a 10111 call centre worker to be increased by an estimated R50 000 per year because they each support about 15 other people. "On average, every employed worker supports 15 dependents. They cannot be expected to see their families suffer because their employer will not agree to pay a living wage," Sapu and the SA Federation of Trade Unions said in a joint statement on Thursday. They want the current salary level to be increased to around R226 000 per annum. About 5 000 SAPU affiliated members employed at 10111 centres went on strike on Tuesday. They are employed under the Public Service Act and are thus not considered an essential service. Both unions said they understood the serious implications of striking and sympathised with the public who had been deprived of a vital public service. "A strike is an absolute last resort after months of attempts to reach a negotiated settlement and we urge the employer to return to the table with an improved offer as soon as possible."In February 2013, workers discussed their concerns about salary disparities at government call centres with police management. Former national commissioner Riah Phiyega set up a task team to compare the salaries 10111 workers were earning with those of their colleagues at other government call centres. This included the presidential hotline, home affairs, and SARS. The team concluded its work on April 30, 2016. It recommended in a report that the salary level at 10111 centres should be upgraded from level 5 to 7, or to R226 211 per annum. The report was sent to then acting national police commissioner General Khomotso Phahlane for approval. He asked for a job evaluation for the post of 10111 call centre agent. It recommended that the salary level be upgraded to 7, but this was never implemented, Sapu claimed. At a meeting with police management on December 12, 2016, it was agreed that the recommendations be implemented. The matter was escalated to the bargaining council for a collective agreement, but management reneged on its commitment, Sapu said. Instead, they were told that 10111 posts would fall under the ambit of the SA Police Service Act, and no longer the Public Service Act. This would have required workers to apply to be appointed to the rank of constable, which 10111 employees rejected. They said a constable’s salary was on level 5. On April 28, 2017, Sapu marched to Phahlane’s office, where they handed over a memorandum with a list of demands. These included the implementation of the recommendation that salary levels be increased two notches and rejection of the conversion of 10111 posts into constable posts. Management refused to act, and on June 6, workers marched to the police minister’s office. Yet, still, no progress was made. "Therefore we were left with no alternative but to take strike action," Sapu said.