SARS building. Picture: Gallo Images
SARS building. Picture: Gallo Images

The strike at the SA Revenue Service (Sars) ended on Tuesday after the two majority unions at the tax agency settled on an offer that increases their wages and other benefits.

Sars employees, represented by the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) and the Public Servants Association (PSA), embarked on a strike last week after wage negotiations reached a deadlock. The negotiations started in November and culminated in the strike, which affected contact centres, walk-in branches and, to a lesser extent, ports of entry.

Nehawu signed an agreement with Sars on Tuesday and all employees are expected to be back at work on Wednesday.

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The PSA signed the multi-term settlement agreement on Monday which, among other benefits, gives workers an 8% pay increase in 2019/2020 and an increase equivalent to the consumer price index (CPI) plus 2% in the second and third years of the agreement.

Projected CPI for 2020/2021 is at 5.5%, while projected CPI for 2021/2022 is 5.4%, Sars executive for remuneration and benefits Takalani Musekwa said.

He said Sars would be staying within the estimated national expenditure over the medium term, as was announced in the budget earlier in 2019.

The multi-term agreement is expected to bring wage-negotiation stability to the embattled revenue service.

Musekwa said Sars was able to give the increases as it had frozen posts that had opened up in 2018. He acknowledged the agreement would affect capacity at Sars, given the frozen posts, but that the agency hoped to open up more of the positions over the next three years.   

He said the newly re-established illicit economy unit, the reconstituted Large Business Centre, as well as the IT department would have to be “beefed up”.

Nehawu said it is not happy with the multi-term agreement and reiterated that a single-term agreement would have been more suitable.

“In this regard, we shall continue to monitor its implementation and, where necessary, the union shall consider all possibilities to reopen the negotiations,” Nehawu’s secretariat said.

Nehawu also hit out at the PSA for signing the settlement agreement on Monday “while negotiations were still ongoing”.

“We find it unflattering that the same union that was ready to fight until the bitter end for Sars workers folded precipitately, while we believed that the employer still had an opportunity to improve the offer presented on Sunday,” Nehawu said.