Cosatu, Saftu reject 4,7% wage increase offer

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Public sector unions affiliated with Cosatu and Saftu have rejected the 4.7% wage increase announced by the Minister of Public Service and Administration, Noxolo Kiviet.

The wage increase, which is expected to take effect on 1 April, is part of the two-year public sector wage agreement signed in 2023, which guarantees an inflation-linked increase in the 2024/25 financial year.

At the time of signing, Saftu unions including some from Cosatu refused to sign the deal accusing the government of undermining collective bargaining and unilaterally forcing a below-inflation increment on them.

The labour unions including police union Popcru now say they will consult their members to seek a new mandate ahead of a fresh round of talks for the coming year. The union has threatened to once again mobilise and march against the government if there’s no agreement.

Some labour unions in the public service have described as an insult the 2024 4,7% wage increase accusing government of continuing to undermine the plight of workers.

The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) is among those that took to the streets last year and refused to sign the 2-year agreement which they say did little to increase the workers buying power.

“The South African Federation of Trade Unions has rejected this agreement when it was even struck in 2023 because as a multi-term agreement, we argued at the time that it was below inflation, what they have done to try to mislead the workers was to try to incorporate the old gratuity part of the increase which actually would have led to a misrepresentation of the actual increase of the wages of workers in public service,” says Trevor Shaku, Saftu spokesperson.

Police are classified as essential workers and are not allowed to go on strike. But the threats of strike action could see some disruptions.

The Police and Civil Rights Union Popcru also refused to sign the multi-year wage agreement last year and say they will now get a mandate from their members on a way forward.

“Public servants have been worse off since 2017 when the last agreement which was talking to salary increment and their pension fund was implemented. From then up to now there hasn’t been any salary i son but immediately when they are supposed to get what is due to them the employer is just pointing a middle finger saying I am giving you less than inflation,” says Popcru president Thulani Ngwenya.

The Public Servants Association (PSA) on the other hand formed part of those that signed the two-year agreement.

The union has cautioned against what it calls the undermining of collective bargaining by government saying they will need to strategize going forward and approach talks with caution to ensure the best wage deal for their members.

“A lot has to be done in the years coming forward, next year especially, the increase is based on the projected inflation rate and if the inflation rate does hover above 4,7% we will be certainly demanding a salary increase that will make up the deficit for this year and obviously what we are going to negotiate for next year. We are optimistic that government will come to the party as well and say the public servants deserve a salary increase that will meet their financial needs,” says PSA Spokesperson, Claude Naiker.

The fresh round of talks at the public service bargaining council is expected to start in September 2024 with the workers hoping to find joy in the new administration that will be formed post the general elections.

Video: Cosatu, Saftu affiliated unions reject govt’s 4.7% wage increase offer, set to strike