Ayanda Dlodlo. Picture: SIYABULELA DUDA
Ayanda Dlodlo. Picture: SIYABULELA DUDA

Parties to the public-sector wage negotiations have set up a committee to merge the government’s new wage offer and the initial one presented when Faith Muthambi was minister of public service and administration.

This comes as labour’s committee of principals — made up of union leaders — meets on Monday to determine whether new demands should be tabled to include the effect of the increase in value-added tax.

The negotiators are under pressure to speedily conclude the negotiations, which have missed the public sector wage adjustment implementation date of April 1.

Labour unions are unhappy with a new offer by the government through Public Service and Administration Minister Ayanda Dlodlo, saying it was "miles" from the initial offer.

"Both documents were drafted by the employer yet they are miles apart. It is unclear whether this is due to a political shift in the ministry or just bad bargaining," said the Public Service Association’s Tahir Maepa.

In the most recent offer presented at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council last week, the government proposes salary hikes of 5.5% for levels 1 to 10 and 4.5% for levels 11 and 12, with effect from 2018 to 2021, the duration of the multiyear agreement. Labour has demanded CPI plus 3% for the lowest-paid workers, which was being reviewed.

The new offer pushes back the implementation date of the delinking of the spousal housing allowance benefit and the 1.5% notch increase for teachers to 2020. One proposal that appears to be in line with the government’s commitment to curbing the public wage bill but could lead to a deadlock is the inclusion of terms for an employer-initiated severance package in the proposed offer.

Though unions were at odds over whether to declare a dispute at the bargaining council over the differences in the employer’s offers, Maepa said it seemed inevitable.

Cosatu public sector unions last week said they would have to consult members on the "possible shutdown" of the public service if last Thursday’s meeting did not result in agreement.

Members of the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union picketed outside the venue where negotiations were held last week.

But Business Day understands Cosatu leaders are not eager to call a strike even though it seems talks are headed for collapse as they did not want to "embarrass President Cyril Ramaphosa". Dlodlo said the negotiations were "under very difficult economic conditions".

She stressed that the employer and labour had a responsibility to achieve an outcome that contributed to improving service conditions and sustaining the government’s personnel costs.