Sars yet to count cost of strike

This counter is closed: South African Revenue Service workers downed tools last week, demanding an 11% wage increase, until their unions accepted a staggered three-year wage deal. (Delwyn Verasamy)

This counter is closed: South African Revenue Service workers downed tools last week, demanding an 11% wage increase, until their unions accepted a staggered three-year wage deal. (Delwyn Verasamy)

The South African Revenue Service (Sars) is yet to count the cost of the national strike that hit the tax agency last week.

The Public Servants Association (PSA) and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) downed tools last Thursday for the first time in a decade — a move that hit customs and excise at border posts and Sars offices across the country.

The strike came as Sars announced a shortfall in revenue collection for the fifth consecutive year on Monday, reaching R57.4-billion in 2018-2019.

This marked an increase of R14.6‑billion on the existing shortfalls forecast in the February 2019 budget, which was expected to hit R42.8-billion.

The strike also came as the institution remained in limbo after the disastrous term of axed commissioner Tom Moyane. But a day before the strike was due to begin, President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed former Sars deputy commissioner Edward Kieswetter as the new Sars boss.

The PSA was first out of the starting blocks in accepting the three-year wage deal, with an increase of 8% in the first year and the consumer price index plus 2% in the two consecutive years thereafter, said the PSA’s Stefan Viljoen. The increase was voted for by an overwhelming majority of its members.

READ MORE: Nehawu ‘unhappy’ with Sars deal but will sign agreement

Sars said it had not quantified the cost of the strike yet.
The tax agency said the “no work, no pay” principle was applied to all workers who participated in the action, which affected 33 of its 53 branches.

Sars said it remained within the allocation from the national treasury in its final offer to unions, as far as it related to overall employee costs.

“Sars has already realised savings from frozen positions, and has identified further savings opportunities together with organised labour to improve the cost structure over the next three years,” it said.

Nehawu, which had earlier denied allegations that elements within its ranks had used the strike to send a political statement, also reluctantly accepted the wage deal this week. Nehawu members were seen bearing placards stating: “Under Moyane employees were happy, bring back Moyane”.

The Mail & Guardian understands that union leadership had told full-time shop stewards that the 8% offer was “not a bad idea” even before the strike commenced, but the members insisted that there should be a strike.

Detailed questions sent to Nehawu spokesperson Khaya Xaba about the stance of some of its members during the strike received no response. The union said in an earlier statement that some of the problems at Sars emanated from Moyane’s term and added it was “preposterous” to suggest it would fight on his behalf. “To suggest that Nehawu can be reduced to a personal army is an insult to us and we take serious exception to that,” the statement said.

READ MORE: Sars crippled by Moyane loyalists

After the strike the union said it was not happy with the multi-term agreement and would have preferred a single-term agreement in the current economic conditions.

Natasha Marrian

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