/ 23 August 2010

Govt recasts public-sector wage offer

Govt Recasts Public Sector Wage Offer

There is only one-tenth of a percent difference between what striking public servants are demanding and what the state is offering, government spokesperson Themba Maseko said on Monday.

In a move that appears designed to bring unions back to the negotiating table, he told a media briefing in Pretoria that in “real terms” the government was offering an 8,5% increase to public servants.

Unions are demanding, among other things, an 8,6% pay increase.

“In real terms, the state’s offer to the unions amounts to 8,5% and means that the real difference between the state and the unions at this point in time is 0,1%,” Maseko said.

Since the nationwide strike started last week, the government has insisted there is no money available to move past its 7% pay settlement offer, tabled earlier this month.

Explaining the government’s new arithmetic on Monday, Maseko said the figure of 8,5% was the sum of the 7% settlement offer and the so-called pay progression of 1,5%.

While the latter was intended to be performance-linked, “no performance evaluation system is on the table, so more than 90% of workers … will get it automatically”, he said.

The 1,5% had “now been added to the wage offer as part of the government’s commitment to improving the conditions of service of state employees”.

Maseko insisted the 1,5% “was always on the table”, but there had been a “delay in highlighting this fact”, and the government now wanted to make this clear to both the public and workers.

‘Full might of the law’
The government was appealing to public-sector unions to sign the offer “without delay”, as well as appealing to all public servants currently on strike to “return to their posts with immediate effect”.

He said the no-work, no-pay principle would be “implemented with immediate effect for all those who are participating in the strike”, which the government was closely monitoring.

Maseko also warned the government would crack down hard on strikers participating in violence and intimidation.

“At this point we are extremely concerned about the violence and intimidation that continues to characterise the strike in parts of the country.

“Reports about the intimidation of workers, particularly nurses and teachers, who do not want to be part of the strike are being investigated, and those found responsible for these acts will face the full might of the law.”

Dedicated courts to deal with such cases were up and running and those who broke the law would be “prosecuted speedily”.

Maseko said the total cost of the “real terms” 8,5% pay increase, plus the R700 a month housing allowance the government is offering, will be R5-billion. — Sapa