- The government tabled a final offer to public service unions of an effective 7.5% wage increase
- The offer remains a 3% pensionable baseline increase and a 4.5% non-pensionable increase.
- The Department of Public Service and Administration said talks needed to be concluded urgently before the February budget dictates its fiscal limits.
- For more financial stories, go to the News24 Business front page.
The government has made clear that the "final offer" tabled to unions in the deadlocked public service wage talks is an effective 7.5% increase, which is expected to cost the fiscus R34 billion.
Government issued a statement on what it called the final offer on Thursday evening, hours after seven unions representing an estimated 800 000 members announced a national day of action in protest against the previous offer of a 3% increase. Unions are demanding a 10% baseline increase.
This final offer is made up of a 3% pensionable baseline increase and a 4.5% non-pensionable increase, and does not differ from what was tabled to unions previously.
The Public Servants' Association (PSA) already held a one-day strike last week over the deadlocked wage talks. Next week the union will be joined in another day of action by public service unions affiliated with the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu).
A statement from the Department of Public Service and Administration said the adjustment to its offer was informed by its need to balance public servants' livelihoods with the stability of the Medium-term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) tabled by Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana in October.
"Public servants received the final offer of an average of 7.5%, [which is] 3% pensionable and 4.5% non-pensionable at a cost of R34 billion to the fiscus, for the 2022/23 financial year. This covers public servants in the level 1 to 12 band in line with the final government offer made to the parties to the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council," the statement said.
The statement said government implemented this final offer in October because if the MTBPS had been tabled without the offer being effected, it would have been lost, requiring that the parties wait for the next financial year "with no guarantees of whether the money will still be made available in the budget or not".
"The government remains committed to the bargaining council processes and engagement with organised labour. The maintenance of labour peace remains a critical part of the efforts to professionalise the public service as contained in the Cabinet-approved professionalisation framework," the statement said.
The department warned that if parties failed to secure a new agreement and settle the matter of wages, the February Budget speech would inform the limits for wage negotiations.
"As the government, we remain committed to respecting organised labour, safeguarding the collective bargaining processes and promoting labour peace. All action will be taken to ensure that the bargaining process is protected," the statement said.
At Thursday's briefing, unions said even public service workers that constituted essential services - a category of employees who are not allowed to strike - were prepared to down tools.
News24 approached various unions for a response to the latest offer and the unions said they would respond in due course.
*This article has been corrected to reflect that the "final offer" was not a revised figure of 7.5% as previously reported. The 7.5% is the effective wage hike tabled by government previously. News24 regrets the error.