Cosatu members. Picture: REUTERS
Cosatu members. Picture: REUTERS

Public-sector unions have rejected the government’s new wage offer for the 2020/2021 financial year as time runs out for the negotiations, with new salaries taking effect on April 1.  

On Friday, Mugwena Maluleke, chief negotiator for union federation Cosatu’s public-sector unions, and Reuben Maleka, assistant GM of the Public Servants Association of SA (PSA), said the government’s offer was rejected.

The government proposed that employees that fall within levels 1 and 8 receive an inflation-related increase of 4.4% for 2020/2021; while those who make up the remaining, higher salary bands, between levels 9 and 16, receive no increase, according to the unions.

To be able to fund these 4.4% increases, the government proposed using the funds that would have been used to give 1.5% performance-related increases in 2021/2022. If that was not agreed to, it would not be able to fund the 4.4% increases for 2020/2021, Maluleke said.

Finance minister Tito Mboweni announced drastic cuts to the public-sector wage bill during his budget address in February. The government, however, did not bring unions on board before the cuts were pencilled into the budget, and the cuts were seen as a declaration of war.  

Maluleke said the Cosatu unions have agreed to continue negotiating with the government in an attempt to convince it that it is not in the best interest of collective bargaining to renege on the multi-term agreement signed in 2018, and that the agreement has to be honoured.  

He said Cosatu is in the process of obtaining legal advice on how to take the matter forward as time is not on its side, as people would be paid on April 15.

However, he emphasised that all internal mechanisms have to be used before venturing to the courts, and that the unions would be consulting members on Friday and over the weekend.

He said he hopes that a meeting of the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) would be possible on Monday or, at latest, Tuesday, but that this might be complicated by the lockdown imposed countrywide in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Maleka said on Friday that the PSA is set to put the government on terms in a lawyers letter on Friday to demand that it implement the agreement signed in 2018. He said the government would either have to agree to implement its demands, or reject it, after which the PSA could approach the courts to enforce the agreement.

Maleka said this is not matter to strike over, but rather a contractual issue. He said that before Wednesday the government had not come up with the modalities of a new wage offer, but merely said, on earlier occasions, that it could not afford the current agreement, which was signed in 2018.

mailovichc@businesslive.co.za

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