PSA holds out on signing public sector wage deal

The Public Servants Association (PSA) refused to budge on signing the finalised public sector wage agreement — halting the conclusion of the protracted negotiations.

Minister for Public Service and Administration Ayanda Dlodlo was set to address the media on Monday on the government’s position on the final wage agreement. But when the union held out on signing the proposal prior to the briefing, the announcement was called off.

The Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council concluded the wage negotiations on Friday last week and on Monday morning presented the agreement to trade unions and government to be signed.

But not all members of the bargaining council are on board with the wage proposal, with the Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) calling for more time to consult with members. Fedusa’s affiliate, the PSA has not agreed to the three-year wage deal, while all Cosatu affiliates agreed to sign off on the agreement.

Fedusa accused government of trying to “force through” the proposal even though the PSA — which represents 238 000 members — declared a dispute over the agreement last week. The federation said that government kicked them out of the debate and pushed on with negotiations without them.

Fedusa called this “an open attack on collective bargaining”.

The deal will see 7% increases for junior employees for 2018/2019, backdated to April 1, when the previous agreement lapsed. Mid-level employees will receive 6.5% increases and senior staff will have raises of 6%.

The agreement for the first year for the entire civil service is above inflation increases with the Bureau of Economic Research projecting Consumer Price Index (CPI) at 5.2% in 2018.

Unions who tabled their demands in October last year initially wanted increases of between 10% to 12%. The PSA is sticking to a demand of 10%.

Fedusa accused Cosatu union affiliates of wanting to sign the agreement without debate with no intention of consulting with their members. But in a statement Nehawu said that they reported to their members on Saturday.

“The national union wants to reiterate that it shall never abandon nor betray its members for any reason hence it shall never sign any agreement that does not have their approval,” said the Nehawu secretariat.

Fedusa noted that negotiators have until July before an agreement must be signed and yet “Sadtu [South African Democratic Teachers Union], Nehawu, Popcru [Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union] and Denosa [Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa] seem in a rush to get it done”.

Fedusa suggested that the agreement is not the best deal for the members of those unions, but rather the best deal for their “friends in government”.

The public service department said after the postponement of the briefing that it is still seeking the signatures of all unions.

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Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.

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