Ayanda Dlodlo. Picture: GCIS/ELMOND JIYANE
Ayanda Dlodlo. Picture: GCIS/ELMOND JIYANE

Public-sector unions were again left grasping at straws after the government requested another postponement of the critical public servants wage talks.

This time, government facilitators requested to push the talks back until April 24 to consult with their principals, who are the heads of government departments.

The request came amid tension among parties at the Public Sector Co-ordinating Bargaining Council as labour union leaders grapple with what they said was the state’s bizarre handling of the talks. For the first time, the government has tabled two different offers to employees at the council and changed negotiators when the talks were nearing an end in February, according to the unionists.

The changes placed the talks at the brink of collapse, with the Public Service Association of SA (PSA) threatening to strike, even if it does not have the support of the rest of the public unions. On Wednesday, the union leaders held various meetings to discuss strategies on how to get the government to come to the table with a tangible offer.

A draft proposal seen by Business Day offers levels 1 to 7 employees wage increases of consumer price index (CPI) plus 1.5%, CPI plus 1% to levels 8 to 10 and CPI plus 0.5% to levels 11-12.

Labour rejected the offer, demanding instead increases of 12%-10%, or alternatively that the government reverts to an offer tabled on January 26 that proposed several changes to the wage structures of public servants, including the delinking of the controversial spousal clause for housing allowances.

Public Service and Administration Minister Ayanda Dlodlo’s spokesman, Mava Scott, said the postponement was requested to allow time for talks. "When there is no consensus there will always be a request for another date. There is no deal on the table; as long as there is no deal on the table, the parties will have to keep talking," he said.

Scott could, however, not explain how the state intended continuing with the talks after requesting a postponement.

Business Day understands Cosatu unions grudgingly granted the employer the postponement, while the PSA was still weighing its options.