Public sector unions have tabled a consolidated list of demands, including general salary increases of 10%-12%, with the Public Sector Co-ordinating Bargaining Council.
The unions called for the abolition of levels 1, 2 and 3 employment scales as workers in these categories earned "slave wages". The categories include administration staff and general workers. Unions proposed that levels 4 to 7 would get the highest increase of 12%, while levels 8 to 10 would receive 11% and levels 11 and 12 would get 10%.
In a document containing details of a special council meeting held two weeks ago, the unions representing the majority of state employees cited the effect of the economy’s junk status on the disposable income of public servants, saying it needed to be corrected.
However, the Public Service Association has now said that if it had known President Jacob Zuma would reshuffle the Cabinet it would have demanded more from the government.
The union’s deputy general manager, Tahir Maepa, told Business Day they dreaded the effect Tuesday’s reshuffle would have on public-sector wages.
"If we had known there was going to be another reshuffle, we would have waited and not tabled our demands. In the long run the reshuffle will have a negative impact on the eco-nomy. Political instability is not good for the country’s economy. We may not feel it today, but in days to come it will have a detrimental effect," he said.
One of the demands on the list was a R2,500 housing allowance increase and the Public Investment Corporation investing in the Government Employees Housing Scheme.
Unions have been pushing for a different working model for the scheme, saying public servants often found themselves unable to buy houses as they were considered ineligible by lenders but they also did not qualify for free state housing.
The government was expected to deliver its feedback by tabling an official offer to unions and council officials on Friday, Maepa said.
In its February Budget Review, the Treasury stated that the public sector wage bill had "increasingly crowded out other areas of expenditure, limiting government’s ability to improve the composition of spending in favour of capital budgets".
Labour has already expressed anxiety about the 2017 negotiations, saying the uncertain economic and political outlook of the country would make negotiations hard.
Public Service and Administration Minister Faith Muthambi told a Public Service Association conference in September that she aimed to have a dispute-free negotiations season, saying she would deploy the most senior staff from her office and ensure they had a mandate.
In 2015, public servants agreed to a 7% pay hike, plus 1% secured for 2016-17 and 2017-18, although this was not before workers threatened to strike. This time, unions want a one-year agreement.
"The second and third years of multiterm agreements tend to provide smaller increases to members," read the document.