The SARS building in Randburg. Picture:TYRONE ARTHUR
The SARS building in Randburg. Picture:TYRONE ARTHUR

Giving in to the demand for a 11.4% salary increase  by SA Revenue Service (Sars) employees will bankrupt the tax agency, its executive for remuneration and benefits Takalani Musekwa said on Thursday.

In an interview with Business Day, on the first day of an indefinite strike at Sars, Musekwa said the increment asked for by the Public Servants Association (PSA) and National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), was unaffordable and would bankrupt it.

The PSA and Nehawu, the two unions at Sars, represent about 5,300 and 4,400 employees, respectively.

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“[It] 11,4% is just an impossible increase to give without bankrupting the organisation. ," Musekwa said."We are hoping they will see the 8% we are giving as a very reasonable offer and in the market anywhere you won’t be able to get that.”

Nehawu and the PSA were have however been adamant that it would take an 8% increase for a single year back to its members if Sars placed it on the table., which it has not done. The tax agency said it would only offer has only made an 8% offer if the unions agreed to it was as part of a multi-term agreement. The multi-term agreement was rejected by unions on Tuesday evening.  

In terms of the impact of the strike, which is the first in a decade at Sars,  Musekwa said 33 out of 53 walk-in branches were closed on Thursday as a result of the strike, with the rest functioning on a diminished capacity.

He said 90% of the tax agency’s 700 staff members at its contact centres also were participated in of the strike. This lead to calls from taxpayers being unable to be processed,  and being turned away. from its closed branches.

He said goods were being cleared through customs on Thursday, despite the strike.

Ports of entry were however affected. Sars , with its employees at the Beitbridge border post are said to have already downed ing tools at just after midnight on Wednesday. , the border post between Zimbabwe and South Africa, while

The bulk of SA’s trade with the continent is done via Beitbridge border post,  largely regarded as Africa’s busiest. Workers at other border posts finished their shifts and only went on strike later on Thursday morning. 

Musekwa said it was not all the border posts that were affected. He said the , and that the agency deployed managers to all ports to keep an eye on things “even when all the staff are gone”.

Deploying managers who were on an employment level which did not form part of the bargaining council was part of the preventative measures Sars has put in place, Musekwa said.

He said Sars’s IT division was also affected by the strike.

Stefan Viljoen, labour relations officer for the PSA, said Sars on faced an “almost total shutdown”.

He said PSA members received SMS messages asking them to come back to work due to the impact on the system.

Sars on Thursday afternoon obtained an interim interdict from the Labour Court in Johannesburg, barring workers from picketing at branches which were not designated in terms of the picketing rules.

The unions have also not given its consent for Sars’s application to the CCMA, which has been made in a bid to resolve the dispute through arbitration. The arbitration can only take place by consent, Viljoen said.

Khaya Xaba, spokesman for Nehawu said the application for an interdict to stop picketing from all branches besides its head office in Pretoria and one in Alberton, Gauteng, showed Sars was unwilling to find common ground with its striking employees.