Public sector wage deal inches closer as more unions sign

Johannesburg - The public sector wage agreement is close to being a done deal, with 48% of workers represented by trade unions at the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) supporting the offer.

A majority of 50%+1 employee agreement is required to implement the deal.

"We are awaiting Nehawu (National Education Health and Allied Workers Union) to finalise their consultation. We will be patient," PSCBC’s general secretary, Frikkie de Bruin, said in an SMS on Thursday.

Two unions have so far confirmed they have signed. The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) and the South African Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu) have said they inked the deal, while the PSCBC has kept the names of the others in agreement under wraps due to union rivalry.

This stance has been met with disdain by the Public Servants Association, who has been outspoken against the wage negotiations since early 2018, accusing Cosatu of "selling out" their members while President Cyril Ramaphosa tries to trim the public sector wage bill.

The PSA, which has 238 000 members, will go on strike from Monday, which they claim will affect immigration, the distribution of social grants and prosecutors in the judicial system.

"Reflecting on the negotiation process since its beginning, it is becoming more evident that the negotiations may have been a staged process between the state as the employer, its alliance partners - the Cosatu-affiliated unions and even the general secretary of the PSCBC," the PSA’s general manager, Ivan Fredericks, said in a statement.

Cosatu has argued that continuing to strike could be detrimental to public sector employees.

Nehawu and six other unions affiliated to the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) will brief the media on Friday about the protracted wage negotiations.

The three-year wage deal will see 7% increases for junior employees for 2018/2019, while mid-level employees will receive 6.5% increases and senior staff will see raises of 6%.

The increases for the second and third years of the wage agreement are on a sliding scale. The agreement will also de-link spousal housing allowances for junior employees from September and for mid-level and senior staff 12 months later.

Unions who tabled their demands in October initially wanted increases of between 10% and 12%, and the PSA is sticking to its initial demand. 

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