South Africa

Public sector unions gear up to strike

Labour groups representing South African civil servants plan to notify the government next week of their intention to go on strike, a move that will ratchet up tensions in a stand-off over wage increases.

Pay talks reached an impasse last year when the government rejected union demands for 10% raises, and unilaterally implemented a 3% hike.

While Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana is set to table the annual budget on 22 February that will make an allocation for personnel costs over the next three financial years, negotiations on a deal covering that period have yet to get underway.

The strike notice will be issued on the same day Godongwana delivers his budget speech, eight unions that are affiliated to the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the country’s biggest labour group, said at a briefing in Pretoria on Thursday.

“We are of the view that the employer is not interested in resolving this dispute,” the unions said.

“We have resolved to rally our collective might to push the employer to improve the rejected offer and will use everything in our power to register our disdain for the government’s attitude.”

Containing the wage bill is pivotal to government efforts to rein in the nation’s debt, which is set to peak at 71.4% of gross domestic product in the current fiscal year.

Compensation accounts for almost a third of state expenditure after rising by an annual average of two percentage points above the inflation rate for the past decade and is crowding out spending on other priorities.

While the Cosatu unions said they wouldn’t participate in any talks with the government until it revises its previous pay offer, rival labour group, the Federation of Unions of South Africa, said it would return to the wage bargaining council to negotiate a deal for the upcoming fiscal year.


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