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South African trade unions are seething with anger following Wednesday’s budget speech, with a number of them threatening to go on strike in response to the government’s austerity plans. Public service unions have decried high vacancy rates, saying finance minister Tito Mboweni’s announcement that the government plan to offer voluntary severance packages to thousands of workers flies in the face of existing collective bargaining agreements. In an effort to curb spending on the wage bill Mboweni said national and provincial compensation budgets would be reduced by R27bn over the next three years, while older public servants would be “allowed” to take early retirement, saving an estimated R4.8bn in 2019/20, R7.5bn in 2020/21 and R8bn in 2021/22. The public wage bill now stands at 35% of the total budget and the plan is to shed 30,000 employees through natural attrition. Meanwhile, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) said it would embark on a mass mobilisation campaign, ca...

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