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The public sector unions affiliated to Cosatu say they remain resolute and won’t back down on their demand for a dignified wage increase. In their press briefing earlier today, the joint mandating committee of Cosatu led by Simon Hlungwani, said wage negotiations with the employer have collapsed and they are, therefore, now sticking to their initial demand of a 10% across the board increase on the cost of living adjustment. and for this to happen, they have invoked a Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) dispute resolution mechanism. The collapse of negotiations, according to the unions, resulted from the employers withdrawing an offer tabled at the council because it did not have all of their support, and subsequently opting not to re-open the negotiations.

“As things stand, there is no offer on the table; the decision by the employer to opt for the draft resolution falling away was confirmed in the council sitting of 3 October 2022,” Hlungwani read from the prepared statement. ‘’It is now public knowledge, based on the leaked letter written to the general secretary of the PSCBC and the special council meeting of the 19th October 2022, that the employer is intending to unilaterally implement the very same offer that was officially withdrawn in the council. It is very deceitful for the employer to want to present a narrative in the public that seeks to vilify the mandate of workers and the bonafide principle of collective bargaining.”

On the 31st of this month, the public sector unions are going back to the bargaining council for conciliation and their members will be picketing outside the council to demonstrate their frustrations. The unions have claimed that the employer is undermining the collective bargaining process. “Workers have given a clear mandate to fight for the improvement and we have since developed a programme of action to attain their wishes… that will have expression across the length and breadth of our country, to every part where we organise, and we welcome all workers to join the action irrespective of their affiliation.” said Hlungwani.

Defending their position on the matter, in a joint statement, Minister of Labour Thulas Nxesi and his counterpart in treasury, Enoch Godongwana, said the 10% increase would cost government around R49-billion rands. “Organised labour was advised that government cannot afford this level of money and that this would dramatically disrupt the fiscal outlook, thereby compromising government’s efforts to deliver public services. Such high-cost demands would further frustrate the government’s efforts to continue working on a sustainable long‐term approach to social protection consistent with government’s broad development mandate and the need to ensure affordability. The public sector wage bill is under severe pressure due to the general constraints faced by the South African economy,” reads the statement.

Responding to this, Hlungwani said they all appreciate and agree that the economy is not doing well but the government is being ‘disingenuous’ as they continue giving themselves an increase. “That is why we made an offer to release our saving of many years for the public servants’ housing scheme. That money is more than 12-billion right now. We want that money to be released in order to resuscitate the ailing economy especially in the housing industry. In so doing, public servants will get houses and those in the value chain will benefit as well. I think ministers who are complaining about a bloated public service are pushing propaganda and are being disingenuous because when coming to them giving themselves an increase, they don’t talk about the bloated public service. The number of public servants has dropped over the years, the population has grown and the demand for services has grown. So judge for yourself,” he said.

In June this year, members of parliament received a 3% salary increase which was described as ‘tone deaf’.