More unions reject govt's 2% offer as time runs out for parties to seal a deal

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Striking workers.
Striking workers.
  • Unions at the public service wage talks rejected the government's 2% wage offer on Friday.
  • The government has until next week Friday to formulate a response to organised labour.
  • If the response of the government does not satisfy unions, the doors will be open to a conciliation process, arbitration, or a possible strike.
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More unions at the public service wage talks rejected government's offer of a 2% wage increase on Friday, as the government now has a week to respond to avoid a deadlock or a possible strike.

Unions in the public service met with the government on Friday in a bid to strike a public wage deal, but unions roundly rejected the government's offer. The government has until next week Friday (12 August) to formulate a response to union demands, which currently range between 4% and 6.5%.

This comes after the Public Servants' Association (PSA) said it would pursue a fresh dispute against the government earlier this week, after government said union demands would be unaffordable and it would only be able to pay an increase from the date a deal is signed, not retrospectively from April this year. 

Government had tabled a final offer of 2% - with a sliding scale where salary levels 1 to 4 will receive 3%, levels 5 to 8 will receive 2.10%, and levels 9 to 12 will receive 1.50%.

READ | Union claims govt is stalling as public wage talks hit another delay

Negotiations coordinator for the Cosatu bloc of public sector unions, Simon Hlungwani, said Cosatu affiliates in the talks rejected the government's offer on Friday.

"We have rejected the offer, except for one that was already outside council. The employer representatives said the unions don't have a mandate on rejection. If they come back and they don't improve, then we must go into conciliation because it will be a deadlock," said Hlungwani.

Hlungwani said by 12 August the employer was expected to reply to labour's demand, failing which a deadlock would be declared. From there the matter would either be referred to conciliation, followed by arbitration, or a possible strike.

"It's not an exclusive process. After deadlocking, there must be a conciliation. If you don't find each other you go to arbitration. If that fails there is a right reserved, including a right to strike," Hlungwani said.

READ | Govt and unions to return to public wage talks next week

Hlungwani could not confirm reports that Cosatu met with Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi in his capacity as acting minister of Public Service and Administration to find a political solution to the public service wage talks.

PSA's Reuben Maleka told Fin24 that as far as the union was concerned, other unions were free to join the PSA in its dispute against the government.

"It's up to other unions to join the PSA dispute that is ongoing. We believe we have been left with no other avenue other than a dispute," said Maleka.

The National Treasury indicated Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana's interest in getting involved in the public service wage talks earlier this week, but the PSA warned that increased involvement from the finance minister could cause a regression in progress in the negotiations.

Public Service and Administration spokesperson Moses Mushi previously told Fin24 that the department would not comment on ongoing negotiations as it prefers to avoid being seen to be conducting negotiations through the media.

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