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Massive injection for state payroll

Mandy Rossouw, Matuma Letsoalo

Government ministers summoned to a meeting with Cosatu at Luthuli House this week agreed to implement the "occupation-specific dispensation".

Government ministers summoned to a meeting with Cosatu at Luthuli House this week agreed to implement the “occupation-specific dispensation” (OSD) on public service pay stalled since mid-2008.

The implications for the state payroll are unclear, but the undertaking will require a massive infusion of funds from the treasury.

The meeting, attended by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, Correctional Services Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, was brokered by ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe.

The Cosatu delegation, led by its president Sdumo Dlamini, told the ministers that the implementation of the OSD, agreed after the 2007 public service strike, was essential to avert further crippling industrial action.

Government representatives also revealed that a key problem which had derailed the OSD, particularly in health, was the omission of 30 000 nurses from the tally of health workers presented to treasury. As a result, money earmarked for doctors was used to pay nurses.

Sources said that at the meeting the ministers gave assurances that money is available to implement the OSD. But the parties first needed to resolve their different readings of the agreement.

Cosatu blamed former public service minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi for the acrimonious relations between the state and its employees. Workers were threatening to down tools if pay rises were inadequate.

“We have to break with the legacy of the past, which is in many ways responsible for the problems today,” Dlamini told the Mail & Guardian.

The OSD was tabled by Fraser-Moleketi in a bid to settle the month-long 2007 strike. It enabled her to offer a 7.5% across-the-board increase instead of the 12% demanded by the unions. The gap would be closed by the OSD, a complex arrangement intended to remunerate employees according to their skills, experience and competency.

The catch was that some employees would receive hefty increases, while others remained at the same level. But the details were never hammered out in sectoral chambers, as proposed by the agreement.

An insider involved in the 2007 negotiations said “the unions misunderstood how much money would go into the pockets of their members”.

ANC spokesperson Jessie Duarte said Mantashe had called the government ministers to the meeting in their capacity as ANC deployees because “the ANC needed to understand the issues from both sides”.

According to Dlamini, finance minister Pravin Gordhan did not attend, but forwarded a report saying that money for the implementation of the OSD is available.

In the 2007 medium-term budget speech former finance minister Trevor Manuel committed R15-billion to meet the higher cost of the post-strike salary agreement, with R2-billion going to educators and social workers and R4.6-billion to health workers.

The Luthuli House meeting decided to refer the matter back to the public service coordinating bargaining chamber, where a decision is expected before the end of June. It was agreed that the 2007 agreement was struck before “people were given time to internalise the document”, said Dlamini.

A source involved in the negotiations said: “It was a time of very volatile and confrontational engagements. The specifics were not finalised.”

What state workers want

Education
The education department and teachers’ unions signed the occupation-specific dispensation (OSD) in April last year after 10 months of tough negotiations.

Educators’ pay was to be customised for the profession instead of following the general public service wage structure.

The immediate benefit was an across-the-board increase of at least 4% which, unions say, provincial departments have paid.

But agreement was not reached on other aspects of the OSD, such as a department proposal to link teacher performance and pay with external moderation of their work and the performance of learners.

The unions also want other areas clarified, such as career paths and how performance will be measured.
Unions have warned against unilateral implementation.—Thabo Mohlala

Health
Among doctors’ demands is the implementation of the OSD, which includes clear career paths, pay progression and a once-off amount as compensation for the failure to introduce the OSD on July 1 last year.

They also want vacant posts to be filled and better working conditions.

In May doctors were outraged, and staged protests, when the government offered an increase of between 0.28% and 2% in the OSD bargaining forum.

Doctors wanted a 50% to 70% increase based on an independent survey showing they were paid less than other state workers.—Nosimilo Ndlovu

Correctional services
Demands by correctional services officials include a 12% pay rise for all correctional officers, supposedly in effect under the OSD from July 1 last year. They are also demanding a notch increase for every three years completed, in recognition of previous experience, and the incorporation of overtime pay in officials’ salaries, after the department phased out Saturdays and Sundays as overtime days.

Another demand is an increase in the danger allowance from R200 to R500 for officials working with prisoners. Their demands also include incentives for skilled personnel.—Matuma Letsoalo


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