Municipal workers turn down wage offer

Striking municipal workers march to Salga offices on August 19 2011 in Johannesburg. (Gallo)

Striking municipal workers march to Salga offices on August 19 2011 in Johannesburg. (Gallo)

The Congress of South African Trade Unions, representing 14 unions with an estimated 1.3-million members, is seeking an 8% raise, down from 10% initially demanded.

The government has lifted its offer from 5.9%, compared with headline inflation at 6.1% in April.

“We don’t think that we will be able to take CPI plus 0.5% back to our members and convince our members to sign. It has to be higher,” said Chris Klopper, chairperson of the Independent Labour Caucus, which also represents government workers.

In its February budget, the treasury allowed for a wage increase of only 5% for public servants, adding that a huge state salary bill was crowding out investment in infrastructure and other key productive sectors.

Any settlement above 5% is likely to undermine the government’s ability to get the budget deficit in Africa’s biggest economy down from the current forecast of 4.6% of GDP.

Separately, unions representing 200 000 municipal workers said they had cut their demands for 15% to 11.5% but had made no “meaningful progress” in resolving an impasse with management.

The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) said local government bosses were sticking at their previous offer of 4.5%.

South African wage negotiations tend to last several weeks in a mid-year bargaining session known as “strike season”, with unions often downing tools to back their demands, disrupting mine production and also hitting services in state hospitals and schools.

Further rounds of talks are due to be held over the next 10 days. - Reuters

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