‘Warning shot’: Unions give government a week to salvage wage negotiations before doubling down

General view during the civil service strike on November 10, 2022 in Durban.

Gallo Images/Darren Stewart

  • Public sector unions have given the government a week to respond to their demands amid deadlocked collective bargaining.
  • Seven public sector unions, representing an estimated 800,000 workers, launched a national day of action in eight provinces.
  • Civil Service and Administration spokesman Moses Mushi said the civil service did not experience any significant disruption to its operations on Tuesday.
  • For more financial stories, see News24 Business front page.

Public sector unions have given the government a week to respond to their demands amid stalled wage talks, adding that they stand ready to continue pressuring ministers after a national day of action on Tuesday.

Seven unions from three of the country’s largest union federations, representing an estimated 800,000 members, went on a one-day strike in eight provinces across the country.

Public sector pay negotiations are deadlocked as the government sticks to its offer of a 3% base pay increase plus a monthly cash payment of R11,045 submitted to the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) in September. The unions want a 10% pay rise.

The unions marched to places such as the offices of the National Treasury and the Department of Public Services and Administration in Pretoria, where Acting Minister Thulas Nxesi received a memorandum containing demands and was mercilessly abused by union members.

READ | Public sector wage strike in Western Cape postponed over taxi chaos

The letter of demand called on the government to end its “attack on collective bargaining” and commit to a resolution signed at the PSCBC, including the 2018 collective bargaining agreement, which the government renounced.

“We call for a reversal of austerity measures aimed at the entire public sector. We demand that the government … protect PSCBC as a legitimate social dialogue institution and stop disempowering them to help maintain the purchasing power of public servants,” the statement of demand reads.

While union structures in the Western Cape decided to postpone their participation due to the ongoing SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) taxi strike in that province, Popcru spokesman Richard Mamabolo told News24 that the national demonstrations were proceeding according to the union’s plans.

A Hospersa spokesman said: “The day was a great success. Members of various unions, including Hospersa, came in large numbers to support the public servants’ plight. The memorandum was handed over to the respective government officials in each city.”

Hospersa said it was unfortunate that the Cape Town march had to be postponed as it coincided with the Santaco strike in the Western Cape.

Denosa spokesman Sibongiseni Delihlazo said the union considered the day a success and Denosa welcomed the national day of action as an effective “warning shot” for the government.

“From our point of view we are very satisfied with the participation of the nurses from all fronts. We gave the employer seven days, but the turnout was gratifying. The streets of Pretoria were painted red, yellow and white, and we can even be heard in KwaZulu-Natal, in Mpumalanga and in many provinces,” Delihlazo said.

READ | Unions meet government in third national action of year – setbacks be damned

Delihlazo said if the workers’ demands were ignored, the workers would proceed to the next course of action, which “would have been prompted by great anger on the part of state officials.”

Public service and administration spokesman Moses Mushi said the public service did not experience any significant disruption to its operations on Tuesday, stressing that any stoppage in public services would be unlawful.

“So far we have not experienced any disruption in services and where protesters might attempt to disrupt services law enforcement would step in. There are picket rules to manage the strike, which workers and the government have agreed to ensure services are not disrupted. said Mushi.

The Department for Public Services and Administration has urged all public service unions to return to the negotiating table to complete the ongoing round of collective bargaining ahead of the February budget speech, when spending ceilings will be tightened for all departments.

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