Let's try again, Sisulu asks unions
Trade unions have heeded Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu's call for them to return to the negotiating table, hoping for improved wage and housing allowance offers.
Negotiations deadlocked over a week ago when Sisulu put a "take-it-or-leave-it" offer of 6.5% wage increase and R900 housing allowance on the table, giving the unions 21 days to decide.
The unions have demanded an 8% wage increase and a R1500 housing allowance.
The Public Servants Association yesterday confirmed the talks would resume today, but said Sisulu should refrain from putting final offers on the table.
Danny Adonis, the union's general manager, said the final offer was premature as negotiations were still under way.
"We don't mind her putting the 6.5% offer on the table, but she must refrain from saying it's final. We were negotiating in good faith, trying to get closer to each other, and then she put a final offer on the table, forcing us out of the chamber," he said.
Sadtu's deputy general secretary, Nkosana Dolopi, said the union welcomed Sisulu's call to return to the negotiating table.
"We don't want to strike and this is why we went down to 8% from our initial 10% wage increase demand as well as going down from R1650 to R1500 on our housing allowance demand," he said.
The Independent Labour Caucus has already indicated it will not accept the latest offer.
According to Sisulu, the government offer amounted to a 9% increment- a 6.5% wage increase and a 2.5% hike in benefits such as medical aid, pension funding and housing allowance.
She said this would cost the government R30-billion a year and that the Treasury had only budgeted for a 5% increase.
Sisulu said this amounted to R8.1-billion more than had been budgeted for this year, so the government would have to dip into its reserves to meet the wage bill.
She has lamented that the public service wage bill had risen sharply - from R211-billion in 2009 to R314.9-billion last year.
Yesterday, she commended the unions for accepting her invitation to return to the negotiating table .
She said she was convinced both sides would reach finality "as soon as possible".