Update on the 2021-22 round of wage negotiations of public sector workers

24 April 2021

The COSATU affiliated unions in the public sector (DENOSA, NEHAWU, PAWUSA, POPCRU, SADTU, SAEPU, and SAMATU), who commands the majority at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) wish to update its members on progress around the ongoing salary negotiation in the public service.

Having collectively submitted our demands on the 1st March 2021, the long-awaited response from the employer did not inspire any confidence but rather a disappointing posture with a zero percent increase on cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). There was no movement on other areas like risk allowance; medical aid and housing allowance.

The employer is hellbent on a zero-increase approach to all our demands that require monetary increase and is adamantly pursuing salary freeze even when workers in the public service did not get any increase in 2020. This posture characterises an uncaring and inconsiderate employer whose workers have discharged their responsibilities unselfishly, diligently and with humility in the public service throughout the difficult period of Covid-19. From the employer’s response, our strongest view is that the employer is undermining collective bargaining because the feeding of salaries was never discussed in the chamber but was a unilateral decision by government. We further noted with disgust the intention by the employer to embark on down-varying of existing condition of employment such as leaves, allowances and other demands which will place workers in a worse off situation if not challenged.

On the COLA in which we demanded a Consumer Price Index (CPI) plus 4% across the board, the employer presented a zero increase and furthermore wanted to take the allocated pay progression and other allowances away and bring them as salary increase. This move would imply that workers will not get any pay progression together with other allowances. We have outrightly rejected any attempt to erode the hard-fought gains and have equally declared a deadlock.

We are appalled at this unbecoming tendency of the employer to disregard the value of the public servants. The willingness to provide no salary increase amid the growing economic hardship exacerbated by increasing prices on basic items like food, electricity and public transport is proof enough to back our claim that the employer is uncaring and insensitive.

We strongly believe that our demands are reasonable, affordable, achievable and we are therefore committed to defend them in any form available to the workers. We are awake to the reality of a new economic austerity policy trajectory which is being advanced by the employer even against the legitimate demands of workers who did not receive any increase in the past financial year.

We are fully committed to this process of negotiations and we will only go back to the table should the employer come with a revised offer. We will be consulting with our members on the next possible step while we follow the set process in the PSCBC to resolve the impasse.

For information and comment, contact:

Mugwena Maluleke, JMC Convener: 082 783 2968