Union claims govt is stalling as public wage talks hit another delay

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Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana.
Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana.
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  • Public service wage talks have hit another speed bump as union the Public Servants' Association accused government of using delay tactics to frustrate the process.
  • The PSA wanted to declare a dispute after unions reduced their demand to a 6.5% increase, but government largely stuck to its offer of 2%.
  • The commissioner in the public service wage talks dispute will now consider arguments from both the PSA and the government on whether a new dispute can be lodged.
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Public service wage talks have hit another speed bump as the Public Servants Association (PSA) accused government of using delay tactics to frustrate the process. This comes as government has contested the PSA's bid to declare a fresh dispute. 

The PSA wanted to declare a dispute after unions reduced their demand to a 6.5% increase, but government largely stuck to its offer of 2%. The government also said it could only pay an increase from the date an agreement is signed, not from 1 April, which the PSA rejected.

The commissioner in the public service wage talks dispute will now consider arguments from both the PSA and the government on whether a new dispute can be lodged, with a final decision scheduled to be made in two weeks. 

A new dispute would, however, prove another roadblock in resolving talks that need most unions to agree to an offer in order to strike a deal.

Government and unions returned to the conciliation process on Wednesday after the PSA declared a dispute in July. National Treasury has since said that Minister of Finance Enoch Godongwana will be more involved in the government's negotiation strategy during the talks.

READ | Treasury backs Godongwana taking key role in public wage talks

The PSA said in a memo the government tabled a final offer of 2% - with a sliding scale where salary levels 1 to 4 will receive 3%, levels 5 to 8 will receive 2.10%, and levels 9 to 12 will receive 1.50%.

"The employer stated that increase will come [into] effect from the date of signing the agreement and no longer from 1 April 2022, as earlier indicated. The employer further stated that a percentage above 2% will not be affordable," the memo said.

It added that "public servants have not received a reasonable increase for the past three years" and branded government's conduct "a clear indication of delaying tactics".

READ | Govt and unions to return to public wage talks next week

PSA spokesperson Reuben Maleka told Fin24 that the union was confident that the government's bid at objecting to the dispute would fail.

"They want us to deal with the matter by arguing that the dispute is premature. They did that last year. It was also dispensed of during those negotiations and we are ready to fight it again now," said Maleka.

"The PSA will, however, not be not be derailed ... and will continue to protect its members' rights and interests," the PSA memo said.

Public Service and Administration spokesperson Moses Mushi told Fin24 that the department would not comment on ongoing negotiations as it prefers to avoid being seen to be conducting negotiations through the media.

The commissioner of the conciliation process gave the government until next week Wednesday (10 August) to submit its legal arguments on the jurisdiction of a dispute. The PSA will reply on 15 August with a ruling expected on 19 August.  

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