Government has denied plans to lay off 30 000 workers, saying figures quoted in media reports on Friday were "misleading" and "creating a state of panic in the public service".
Minister of Public Service and Administration Ayanda Dlodlo acknowledged plans to restructure, but said no labour unions had been engaged and that public servants could "rest assured" there were no plans for mass retrenchments.
She said, in a series of tweets on Friday afternoon, that while it was true that "as part of a bigger plan to reorganise government, an employer initiated severance package [sic] and early retirement without penalties, among other measures are being considered, […] government is yet to engage labour unions on the matter."
"I assure public servants that government does not have a plan to retrench public servants en masse as alleged by the Mail and Guardian newspaper," she said.
Mail & Guardian had reported that the process would take place over three years and could save up to R20bn, according to sources who attended the Cabinet lekgotla earlier in the week.
An unnamed senior government official had told the newspaper that National Treasury had set aside R4bn for severance packages.
Plans to restructure
Dlodlo dismissed the report, saying the restructuring would take place on a different scale.
The report was "a complete misrepresentation of the government program in relation to the macro organisation of the state and the initiatives proposed to manage the public sector wage bill," Dlodlo said.
According to Dlodlo, there were plans to streamline service delivery, cutting expenses by improving performance.
She said President Cyril Ramaphosa's "call to restructure government in order to enhance service delivery" by "removing superfluous functions and structures" did not include the figures quoted in the Mail & Guardian report.
It could, however, result in reduced staff but this would be undertaken "meticulously", not in "dramatic wholesale retrenchments", she added.
Dlodlo also discussed the public sector wage bill, which earlier this year stood at R587bn.
She reiterated the measures, announced earlier in the year, that would be taken to address this - including a "comprehensive remuneration strategy" that would tackle the three spheres of government.
Organisational structures would be examined and new appointments would also limited accordingly, she said.
The guidelines in the Ministerial handbook would also be enforced.
Further, she said, an Organisational Functionality Assessment Framework to measure performance, functionality and outcomes – not outcomes only – would be introduced. A uniform job grading system would be applied, and overtime, performance bonuses and leave would be managed strictly.
Lastly, the Government Employees Home Owners Scheme would be finalised to ensure affordable housing for all, she said.
"These initiatives will ensure that personnel expenditure remains within the budget ceiling of the medium-term expenditure framework, and employees are given the necessary tools and training to effect the desired changes to the system."
It was important to attract youth and unemployed graduates in particular into the public service, she added.
"We have just launched a Graduate Recruitment Scheme which aims to address the employability of young people and graduates in particular."
Fin24 previously reported that in the National Budget for 2017, Treasury had indicated that government was considering introducing voluntary severance packages to contain the public sector wage bill.
Government recently signed a three-year multi-term public service wage agreement, which sets aside R110bn for salary adjustments. This exceeds the 2018 medium term expenditure framework by R30bn.
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