Teachers union breaks ranks, says it will accept govt's 3% wage offer

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Sadtu and Natu members demonstrate during a protest.
Sadtu and Natu members demonstrate during a protest.
Nhlanhla Nkosi/File
  • The South African Democratic Teachers' Union has resolved to accept government's 3% wage offer in the public service wage talks.
  • This puts Sadtu at odds with Cosatu affiliates like Popcru, which has stood firm on its 10% increase demand and threatened to go on strike. 
  • The Public Servants' Association will issue a strike notice next week if talks do not progress. 
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The South African Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu) told News24 Business that it has resolved to accept government's 3% wage increase offer in the public service wage talks.

Sadtu spokesperson Nomusa Cembi said the union agreed to the 3% wage increase, potentially breaking ranks with other Cosatu-aligned unions.

Currently, government is offering a 3% pensionable increase across the board, the continuation of the current non-pensionable cash allowance of R1 000 at all salary levels, and a 1.5% pay progression payable to all qualifying employees.

Meanwhile, Cosatu-affiliate the Police, Prisons, and Civil Rights Union (Popcru) has rejected the 3% offer and threatened to go on strike to secure a 10% increase.

The Public Servants' Association (PSA), the largest non-politically affiliated union in the country, is finalising picketing rules and will serve the employer with notice of an intention to strike next week if no progress is made in the talks.

READ | Risk of strike looms again as unions declare fresh public service wage dispute

Approached for comment, Cembi told News24 Business: "Sadtu has agreed to the offer but has not signed."

Cembi said while the 3% wage offer was "not ideal", seven out of nine provincial Sadtu structures submitted that it was best to consider it, as it amounted to a 7% increase when the 1.5% pay progression and cash gratuity were taken into account.

"Public servants in this country are breadwinners. With the pandemic the private sector lost many jobs. While the offer is not quite what we hoped for, many of our members are saying if we push this into next year negotiations will have to start all over again," said Cembi. 

PSA spokesperson Claude Naicker said the PSA was focused on finalising picketing rules by next Tuesday, adding that if nothing changes in the negotiations, they will serve the employer with notice of intention to strike.

"Sadtu themselves confirmed that ... they intend to sign that agreement. The PSA has mandated membership and members have outright rejected the offer, as the cash gratuity ends on 31 March," said Naicker.

Naicker said the PSA wanted the cash gratuity to either be incorporated into the basic salary of public servants or for it to be extended to the 2022/23 financial year or until such time that a new wage deal is signed.  

"We need a protection clause that says if we don't sign an agreement next [year], that cash gratuity must be extended. The employer is saying that [the] cash gratuity will end in March and we think members [will feel this] in [their] pocket," Naicker said.

READ | Three public service unions reject govt's 'last chance' 3% wage offer

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana and Acting Minister of Public Service and Administration Thulas Nxesi said the government was committed to ensuring that the next public service wage deal was sustainable, warning that a 10% wage hike would cost the government R49 billion.

The two ministers released a detailed joint statement on Wednesday, maintaining that above-inflation hikes to public servants' salaries would leave less money to increase the headcount in critical frontline services such as nursing.

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