Senzo Mchunu. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Senzo Mchunu. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

The government has failed to honour a wage agreement to increase the salaries of public-sector workers, despite public service and administration minister Senzo Mchunu saying in March that it was committed to doing so. 

While the government did put a revised offer of a 4.4% pay increase for some levels of workers, unions previously rejected this as it reneged on a multi-term agreement signed in 2018. 

The first batch of public servants received their salaries on Wednesday but “sadly there are no adjustments”, said Riefdah Ajam, the acting general secretary of the Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa).

“Indeed, there are no salary increases as per the agreement. I’m preparing to have a virtual meeting with our public sector unions for a way forward,” said Fedusa president Godfrey Selematsela.

Finance minister Tito Mboweni announced drastic cuts to the public-sector wage bill during his budget address in February. The government, however, did not bring unions on board before the cuts were pencilled into the budget, and the cuts were seen as a declaration of war.  

Fedusa has previously said it will pursue legal action should the government fail to increases the salaries.

Mchunu's spokesperson, Vukani Mbhele, told Business Day that they would abide by any court processes as it was the “logical thing to do”.

In March, Mchunu said the state was committed to implementing wage increases despite the socioeconomic challenges facing the country.

On Tuesday, the Public Servants Association of SA (PSA) assistant GM, Reuben Maleka, told Business Day that they would file court papers on Wednesday, after it became apparent the government would renege on the 2018 wage agreement signed by parties in the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC).

In the 2018 deal, the government agreed to pay level 1-8 employees, comprising general workers and support staff, an increase of the projected consumer price index (CPI) plus 1%. It also agreed to pay levels 9-16, made up of assistant directors to directors-general, a projected CPI plus 0.5%.

In February, the government announced its plans to cut the public sector wage bill by more than R160bn over the next three years. Renegotiating the third year of the wage agreement is projected to cut R37.8bn from the wage bill, or just 1.5% in real terms, in 2020.

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za

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