Sars staff to down tools as wage talks collapse

The Mail & Guardian understands that the announcement of a new SARS commissioner is imminent and could take place any time after a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday. (Oupa Nkosi/M&G)

The Mail & Guardian understands that the announcement of a new SARS commissioner is imminent and could take place any time after a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday. (Oupa Nkosi/M&G)

Staff at the South African Revenue Service (Sars) will down tools after wage talks collapsed late on Tuesday.

The industrial action, expected to begin on Thursday, comes amidst an imminent announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa of the appointment of a new Sars commissioner. According to the Sars Act, the president appoints the Sars commissioner. The Act however, does not stipulate what process should be followed for the appointment to be made.

The Public Service Association, the largest union at Sars, confirmed on Tuesday night that lengthy talks between the tax agency and unions had collapsed.

Unions are demanding an increase of 11.4% for a one-year deal, while Sars is offering 7% in the first year of a three-year deal. It will be the first time in over a decade that SARS will be impacted on by strike action.

Public Servants Association of South Africa (PSA) labour relations officer Stefan Viljoen said cuts to government spending is also having an impact on the revenue service.

The Mail & Guardian understands that the announcement of a new SARS commissioner is imminent and could take place any time after a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

A strike at Sars will impact on customs at the country’s borders as well as on its ability to conclude its year-end processes on revenue collection. Sars has been in the spotlight due to the destructive term of former commissioner Tom Moyane, which culminated in a R142-billion hole in revenue collection over the last five years.

Staff at Sars had told the commission of inquiry into tax and governance, chaired by retired judge Robert Nugent, that morale at the tax agency was low and that the institution had been stymied by a far-reaching restructuring exercise conducted by Boston-based consultancy firm, Bain & Company.

Nugent had found that Moyane and Bain had acted unethically in restructuring SARS and recommended that fraud charges be brought against the company due to its receiving the contract for the work unlawfully.

The PSA, along with the National Health Education and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu, collectively represents some under 10 000 of the tax agency’s 12 000-strong work force. The PSA represents around 5 300 workers, while Nehawu represents some 4400 workers.

Nehawu has also indicated that its members will down tools on Thursday. 

Following the publication of this article, Edward Kieswetter was announced as the new Sars commissioner. This article was amended to reflect this.

Natasha Marrian

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