South Africa

Public sector unions set to strike next month

Cosatu strike

A number of public sector unions are set to go on an indefinite strike from 6 March in response to wage bill negotiations. 

BusinessDay reported that unions representing 1.3 million public sector workers are set to go on strike. A strike notice was served to the department of public service and administration.

According to a statement released by Absa, some public sector unions refused to participate in wage negotiations for the year unless their 10% wage increase demand was not met.

The government has allegedly tabled a 4.7% wage increase. However, Absa said the actual increase might be much lower as the figure excludes cash gratuity.

“If the government firmly implements the no work, no pay principle, the strike is unlikely to drag on for a long time,” said Absa.

The Confederation of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) said that government needs to engage with unions in “good faith” to reach an agreement that protects public sector workers from having their wages eroded by inflation.

“We cannot afford to continue to lose skilled public servants to the private sector and overseas,” they said. 

The wage bill is a significant cost driver for the government.

The remuneration of government employees has a “major bearing on the public debt trajectory”, according to professor André Roux, an economist at Stellenbosch Business School.

He said in a statement that South Africa spends almost 15% of its GDP on remunerating government employees, one of the world’s highest levels.

Stellenbosch University economics professor Krige Siebrits, who specializes in fiscal policy, told Daily Investor that unions would likely make negotiations as difficult as possible this year given the current pressure on living standards.


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