It was pretty ballsy of finance minister Tito Mboweni to propose such a drastic cut to the public wage bill on the eve of the ANC’s national general council (NGC) and local government elections. Announcing that the government wanted to slash the total public wage by R160.2bn over the next three years was certainly not what was expected from him.

The proposal envisages an immediate reopening of the three-year wage agreement currently in force and a settlement at the prevailing increase in the consumer price index (CPI) minus three percentage points for 2020. This is a substantial reduction on what workers would otherwise have received on April 1, which for most employees would have included a cost-of-living adjustment of inflation plus half a percentage point, as well as notch increases of at least another point.

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