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Despite what came before it, a budget premised on deep cuts to the public-sector wage bill and warnings of an impending fiscal crisis, few will have been surprised when Business Day revealed the unions’ demands on Tuesday.

Based on the starting points in previous rounds of negotiations, one might even think that asking for inflation plus 4%, as outrageous as that notion is for private sector workers who have got used to wage cuts and retrenchments, was refreshingly restrained...

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