Wage talks grind to a halt as unions report back
"It's still not enough for any of the unions to take back to their constituencies," said ILC chairperson Chris Klopper.
Klopper says negotiations "still have a way to go" as the union is holding out for CPI +1%, or about 7%. "That is the least we can take back to our members," he said.
He said the union had already reduced its demand to 7.5% and still hoped to get a resolution to the wage crisis.
"Between 7.5% and 6.7% there is the possibility of a deal, and it's not that far apart," he said.
Klopper complained that negotiations, which had been picking up speed again after a breakdown earlier this month, had once again lost their momentum as the state's chief negotiators left on a trip to Canada and were only expected back on July 11.
"Experienced negotiators will tell you there's a critical time when [it's] the time for the final push. We've lost that momentum," he said.
Klopper said the union would have liked to have concluded negotiations this week but public service and administration spokesperson Ndhivuwo Mabaya denied that the trip would delay matters.
"Cosatu unions have asked for two weeks to consult, so it's neither here nor there," he said.
Mabaya also accused the ILC of being disingenuous.
"There's no public service and administration trip to Canada, there's a bargaining council trip. We're members of the bargaining council, so are the Independent Labour Caucus, and there are members of the bargaining council, including their members, on that trip," he said.
"We are not the ones to ask for two weeks to consult, we are here. If Cosatu comes back and says they are ready [to negotiate], we are ready," he added.
"If they [the ILC] are not happy with the fact that Cosatu has asked for two weeks' consultation, they must speak to Cosatu not to government," he said.
Cosatu's chief negotiator Nkosinathi Mabhida could not be reached for comment.
Cosatu has asked for an 8% increase.
Mabaya said government's revised offer of 6.7% signaled the state's intention to resolve the current wage issue.
"Government is negotiating in good faith, within the limited resources that [it] has," he said.
He pointed out that the 0.2% that government had conceded was not merely a question of percentage points – as the state wage bill is around R340-billion annually – this concession works out to roughly R7-billion more than has been budgeted for.
"The state has got competing interests. We've got to balance everything," Mabaya said.
Mabaya also pointed out that the offer did not include the 2.5% in benefits, which includes housing, medical, pay progression, leave and everything else. "It's 6.7% and 2.5% so we're sitting on 9.2%," he said.
Calling unions back
Mabaya declined to say what role new Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu had to play in the increase.
Sisulu called unions back to the table shortly after being redeployed from the defence department.
"This government is not run by individuals, it's run by Cabinet. Between the president of the country, the minster of finance, the minister of DPSA and the collective of the leadership of government, there's constant engagement. We're talking every hour," he said.
Sisulu has been adamant that the negotiations not only resolve the wage crisis but also ensure that there is a multi-year deal.
The department of finance had only budgeted for a 5% increase in public servant wages, and even the 6.5% increase had pushed thestate over R30-billion over budget.