Strike to go ahead as wage talks fail

Friday’s public-service strike is set to go ahead after the government and unions failed to reach agreement on wage increases after two days of talks in Pretoria.

Last-minute talks called by the government broke down in the early hours of Wednesday morning at the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC). The government stuck to its 6 % wage increase offer and unions are still demanding 12%.

Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) public-sector union spokesperson Don Pasquallie said even if the PSCBC reconvened before Friday, the strike would take place.

”We remain hopeful that we’ll find a solution. But at this point in time, even if we find [one] before Thursday, the strike on Friday will continue.”

Kenny Govender, the government’s chief negotiator remained hopeful that a last-minute solution would be found.

”Trying to find one another in this complex environment is always difficult. There are processes one needs to go through and sometimes it takes one just a bit longer to get there.”

He said the two days of talks had not been without merit as some areas of common ground were found.

”We managed to develop a document which I believe can help to take us forward. I think it requires a little more time on both sides to consider those issues before going forward.”

He was referring to a discussion document drawn up by a technical committee consisting of government and union negotiators.

It contained a proposal that the wage increase should be between 6,5% and 9%.

It also included suggestions to limit the multi-year agreements to two years. Other proposals dealt with medical and housing benefits. The document was not officially submitted to the council.

The South African Press Association has learnt that the government had indicated it was willing to up its offer to 7%. Money for this increase would however

have been taken from other parts of the package.

Said Wally Smith of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa, speaking on behalf of the Independent Labour Caucus: ”We have indicated to the employer that the package he put on the table is just not good enough. The package was just too small.”

Lewis Rabkin, spokesperson for Minister of Public Services and Administration, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, commented: ”Unfortunately labour was not willing to engage on the entire package and we got stuck on the issue of percentages and now we back at the status quo.” – Sapa

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