Zille: Compensate public servants for quality of work

South Africa should be compensating public servants for the quality of the work they do rather than granting an across-the-board increase — as demanded by striking trade unionists — official opposition Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille argued on Friday.

Zille, noting the start on Friday of action that looks set to be the largest public-sector strike in the country’s 13-year-history of democracy, said that the prospect of sizeable salary increases for the Cabinet — with increases over 50% proposed — “can also be regarded as inflammatory to those in the public sector earning commensurately less”.

In her internet column, she said: “We need a motivated corps of officials who give their attention to maintaining and strengthening our national infrastructure and service delivery at all levels in order to foster the economic growth that is the only sure recipe for eradicating poverty and joblessness.”

Zille said the question arose as to how one distinguished those who performed. “It appears that the Department of Public Service and Administration is alive to this question, while the Congress of South African Trade Unions and other unions are ignoring its critical implications.

“It seems to have escaped the latter’s attention that the government’s proposals envisage ‘significant increases’ in public servants’ salaries being dependent in future on ‘specialised skills, their experience, their length of service and their performance’.”

She said her party believed “that effort in the public sector must be linked to reward — a principle that should apply across the economy”.

“I am convinced that this is a progressive step which needs much clearer and unambiguous articulation by government. The suggestion that increases be linked to performance accords with our vision of the open, opportunity society in which each one of us receives due recognition for initiative and achievement and takes responsibility for the life choices we make,” said Zille.

Zille, who is also mayor of Cape Town, said she was sympathetic to the declining value in real terms of public servants’ salary packages, given rising prices and inflationary pressures.

“We are especially sympathetic to the situation of excellent teachers and health personnel whose role is indispensable to the welfare and progress of our society.”

Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi has pledged to improve senior teachers’ and nurses’ pay — but has stuck to a 6% hike for most public servants. Unions are demanding 12%. — I-Net Bridge

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