Public sector pay: Godongwana cautions public servants about trade-offs

Unions demonstrate before budget speech, demanding 10% pay increase

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Union members protest near Cape Town’s City Hall ahead of Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana’s budget speech on Wednesday. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana stopped short of making an announcement on public sector wages in Wednesday’s budget, saying he did not want to pre-empt the outcomes of the wage negotiations currently underway. But, he warned, any increase over the budgeted amount would have to be “clawed back” elsewhere.

Unions are demanding a 10% wage increase. The government has offered 3% but according to reports has recently raised that to 4.7%.

Godongwana said Wednesday’s budget provided for the costs of the 2022-23 wage increase, and also for pay progression, a housing allowance, and other benefits. He said the current and future negotiations “must strike a balance between fair pay, fiscal sustainability, and the need for additional staff in frontline services”.

“An unbudgeted wage settlement will require very significant trade-offs in government spending because the wage bill is a significant cost driver. It will mean that funds must be clawed back in other ways.”

“Our ideal view is that we should have concluded the negotiations by June so that by July last year we could have commenced with 2023. Unfortunately things did not go that way,” Godongwana said.

Earlier, more than 100 members of public sector trade unions demonstrated in the city centre ahead of the budget speech, calling for a 10% pay increase.

Mike Shingange, President of the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) the public workforce had become “dilapidated and demoralised”.

”Every time the budget is presented, we suffer budget cuts for public sector workers. Three years have passed without any upward adjustment on the earning of workers. We are now at a point where we can declare a strike because we have done all we can by knocking on all the necessary doors,” Shingange said.

NUPSAW, The Democratic Nursing Association of SA, the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union, the Public Allied Workers Union, and others took part in the demonstration and handed over a memorandum to the national treasury.

Apart from the pay increase, they demanded “an end to attacks on collective bargaining”, the insourcing of all outsourced services, and the filling of all vacant posts. The unions also want reservists, community health workers, comm-serves and teacher assistants to be permanently employed.

“Workers in the public sector are very unhappy with the government and their austerity measures,” POPCRU Western Cape Provincial chairperson Conwe Flink told GroundUp. He said many public servants are struggling to keep up with the high cost of living.

TOPICS:  Labour

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