President Jacob Zuma. Picture: KOPANO TLAPE/ GCIS
President Jacob Zuma. Picture: KOPANO TLAPE/ GCIS

Public sector unions are angered at President Jacob Zuma’s approval of salary increases for public office bearers, including his own and that of the Cabinet.

The unions said they would follow Zuma’s lead during their wage negotiations as the government had demonstrated it was capable of sourcing more funds for its employees, even in tough economic conditions.

Zuma announced on Thursday he had approved the recommendations of the Independent Commission for Remuneration of Public Office Bearers, which suggested increases of 4%-8% for public officials including MPs, judges and leaders of tribal authorities.

Although the president said he had considered the state of the economy when he made the decision, the unions disagreed.

Cosatu spokesman Sizwe Pamla said Zuma was merely looking after himself and his Cabinet and unions would be forced to do the same.

"Zuma and his administration are currently mandated by the electorate to look after the interests of the country and everyone else. If they are looking after themselves, we are going to Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council to get what workers deserve."

Zuma’s salary of more than R2.8m will increase to almost R3m, while cabinet increases will amount to close to R100,000. In 2016, the commission recommended 0% hikes, temporarily containing the R12.2bn wage bill for public office bearers.

In November, the commission’s head of secretariat, Peter Makapan; told Business Day if public office bearers went without an increase for a consecutive year, salaries would stagnate.

The Public Servants Association (PSA) said it was unbecoming to expect of unions that they tailor their demands in accordance with the dire economic situation in the country while the same was not expected of government leaders.

"We are shocked that he [Zuma] had the audacity to approve that kind of increase for themselves, while on the other hand, it gives us a weapon for what we are going to ask for our members. If Zuma can get 4% and all other benefits … we will push for our members the amounts of money that we are asking for," said the GM of the PSA, Ivan Fredericks.

Public servants are demanding a 12% hike for the lowest-paid workers, 11% for mid-level and 10% for senior levels.

The country’s biggest public sector union, the National Health, Education and Allied Workers Union, said it hoped it would not be told of a "bloated public service wage bill" when the government tabled an offer on December 7.

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