Minister of Public Service and Administration Senzo Mchunu said in a statement released on Tuesday that government remained committed to the wage agreement it arrived at with public service unions in 2018, despite the trifecta of challenges facing the economy.
While the minister did not say anything definitive in the statement about whether the agreement would kick in as scheduled on 1 April, he said government remained committed to honouring the spirit of the deal.
Mchunu used the statement to stress that the South African economy was beset with pressures on multiple fronts, namely the Covid-19 novel coronavirus, the latest junk status grading of the economy from Moody’s and a new technical recession.
Government agreed in 2018 to hike public service wages by CPI plus 1% for general workers and CPI plus 0.5% for workers at a director level from 1 April. The National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union accused government of capitulating from this commitment earlier this month.
Mchunu said in the statement that these matters required "dedication, understanding and commitment from all sides" and said government was reassessing modalities through which to honour the two-year commitment in the context of recent challenges.
"Accordingly, we want to reiterate that government remains committed to the implementation of the 2018 wage agreement notwithstanding the aforesaid difficulties, at stake is how to do it, and this matters most," said Mchunu.
During a media briefing last week, Mchunu told reporters that unions in the public service were aware of the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak and agreed not to strike or demonstrate during the lockdown.
The statement said the Department of Public Service and Administration remained "seized with the matter" and recognised the need to handle it with "sensitivity, respect and integrity".