Public sector union considering striking solo amid another delay in wage talks

Johannesburg - The Public Servants Association (PSA) is considering striking alone, following yet another postponement on Tuesday in protracted wage negotiations with government.

According to the union and the seven public sector Congress of South African Trade Unions affiliates, government negotiators requested an adjournment until Thursday to consider labour’s demands within their fiscal envelope.

PSA’s deputy general manager Tahir Moepa said they are balloting their members to decide whether to strike and the process will be completed on Friday.

“We will [then] give notice to the employer on Monday and can go on strike in 7 days,” Moepa told Fin24 on Tuesday evening.

At the heart of the union’s unhappiness is a dispute over the Consumer Price Index (CPI) projections which are used to determine the final salary packages civil servants will take home over the next 3 years.

 The Bureau of Economic Research projects CPI at 5.2% for 2018 but Moepa said that Treasury uses a different calculation and they want government to lay figures on the table, instead of using the CPI calculation.

According to the union, government has offered CPI +2% for junior employees in the first year, CPI +1.5% for mid-level employees and CPI +1% for senior staff. This offer is on a sliding scale for the second and third years of the agreement.

The state has remained mum about its offer saying it remains between the negotiating parties.

The PSA is demanding 10% raises across the board, for all employees and believes their case is even stronger now with the 1 percentage point increase in the value added tax (VAT) from April.

“When we gave in our demands, we didn’t anticipate the VAT increase,” said Moepa.

Tuesday was the second month that the majority of government employees did not receive a wage increase as the previous agreement lapsed on March 31. Negotiations towards a new deal, affecting more than 1 million civil servants began in October and have been beset by several postponements.

Moepa said that some of the Cosatu affiliates are ready to sign the deal, except for the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu), which competes with the PSA for members in government departments and state institutions.

An insider, close to the negotiations admitted that this is a possibility.

Mugwena Maluleke, on behalf of the Cosatu unions denied this in an SMS to Fin24, “There are serious issues we are addressing. For now there is no signing.”

The PSA which represents 238 000 employees in key departments such as Home Affairs, Justice and Social Development has promised that members who are nurses, doctors will not join the strike as they are essential services.

The Department of Public Service and Administration did not respond to a request for comment.

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