SARS strike set to drag on as talks fail to break deadlock

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  • Talks between SARS and unions this past week could not break the deadlock over wages.
  • PSA spokesperson Reuben Maleka said the union planned to continue with the strike.
  • Nehawu spokesperson Lwazi Nkolisi said the talks did not yield the desired results, and the union was planning its next steps.

The inability of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) and unions representing employees to find common ground in the latest talks means that the industrial action at the tax authority will officially continue into next week.

The National Education, Health, and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) and the Public Servants' Association (PSA) issued a strike notice to SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter last month. After just over a week of picketing, the strike commenced in late May.

Unions demand a CPI plus 7% increase and have indicated that they will accept nothing less than an above-inflation increase. Amid the industrial action, SARS went from offering a zero percent increase to proposing that the tax body's savings from 2021 be channelled to salaries.

READ | Stalemate at SARS, operations not yet at full capacity

The PSA suspended its strike to hold talks with SARS about this offer, while Nehawu went back to membership to seek a mandate on whether or not to keep striking. Discussions on Wednesday, in a bid to break the deadlock, were unsuccessful.

SARS spokesperson Siphithi Sibeko said while the employer tried to find common ground with labour during talks this past Monday and Wednesday, there was no movement in a positive direction as unions rejected proposals by SARS.

"We haven't moved with labour. After those negotiations on Wednesday, labour rejected the number once again and the proposal that was given to them.  So there was no movement. It is not clear what labour is going to do next, but it is up to them," said Sibeko.

Sibeko said SARS made the same offer of almost R500 million for pay progression, a contribution to employees of a once-off lump sum of 8.6% of employees' salary, regardless of their level of employment. This was disregarded, he said.

READ | SARS says it's business as usual despite ongoing strike

Nehawu spokesperson Lwazi Nkolisi said while the union did not get an update from its negotiators about this past week's talks, it would continue to consult with members around the country on the next steps that it should take.

"I have not got anything. But as far as the strike is concerned, we are continuing with it while those discussions take place," said Nkolisi.

PSA spokesperson Reuben Maleka said the union did not get what it wanted from the past week's talks and that the strike was still in effect, as far as the PSA was concerned.

"They just came and withdrew the R500-million offer, which leaves many with a 1.39% increase. It doesn't make sense because we cannot accept anything that is less than inflation. So, we are finalising the logistics. We are definitely continuing with the strike," said Maleka.

Sibeko said that, despite the strike, the tax body expected to continue performing vital functions, such as customs and income tax returns, as usual.

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