'We need to resolve this crisis': Senzo Mchunu desperate for public service wage resolution

State tables 1.5% increase plus a R1,000 cash allowance, resulting in an effective 11.7% increase for the lowest-paid public servants

05 July 2021 - 18:01 By nonkululeko njilo
Senzo Mchunu has pleaded with labour unions to return to the negotiating table. File photo.
Senzo Mchunu has pleaded with labour unions to return to the negotiating table. File photo.
Image: Jackie Clausen

Public service and administration minister Senzo Mchunu has pleaded with labour unions to return to the negotiating table as public service wage talks have been deadlocked for months.

This after government at the weekend tabled a revised offer, including a 1.5% increase plus a R1,000 cash allowance, resulting in an effective 11.7% increase for the lowest-paid public servants. It previously offered a R978 cash gratuity for a year.

Several unions are said to have walked out of the talks after the government's failure to table an offer they found satisfactory. Some of the unions have threatened to strike.

Mchunu said though there was some progress in the talks, other issues had since come up.

“We want to note and raise concern that at some point, for some reason, there are unions that for their own considered reasons decided to leave the negotiations,” he said.

“We respect each and every labour organisations that is involved in the public service, we respect their decision but we want to take this opportunity to implore them, to make a direct request that they reconsider their position and possibly go back to the chamber together with all of us to try to find one another and correct what is not correct.”

Mchunu was speaking to journalists during a virtual briefing. The minister said he was not oblivious to the fact that the offer was not satisfactory to the unions, but reiterated the importance of negotiating.

“In our view, this is a reasonable offer that we have been able to make. We may not say it is all that the unions were looking for, but it would be extremely hard for us to say this is very little amid the difficulties in [the economy].

“We need to resolve the crisis. It's not good for us in government and labour, as leadership, to be seen to be seized with problems in a non-ending way, as has been done. I appreciate the difficulties but while I'm pursuing all the unions that are still outside the chamber, to consider going back. Then I want to, second, make an appeal that we resolve these matters as a matter of urgency,” he told journalists. 

Probed on what would happen next should the unions fail to come on board, Mchunu said: “We would rather wait until we cross that bridge. Our heads are working. That does not mean we're sleeping.”

The new offer was first confirmed by the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) on Sunday.

“The revised offer now secures a minimum cash equivalent of R1,000 for all employees across all employment levels. This adjusted offer equates to level 1 employees receiving an amount equal to a cost of living adjustment of CPI +7.5%, or a straight 11% increase if equated to the current salary levels. Level 6 employees, for instance, will receive an amount equal to a cost of living adjustment of CPI + 2.1% while level 10 employees will receive an amount equal to CPI (4.2%).”

Mchunu said terms for the revised offer had not yet been agreed upon.

The PSCBC said unions would seek a mandate from their members on the revised offer.

“Unions have indicated that they will now take this offer to their members for mandating.”

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