Minister of Public Service and Administration, Senzo Mchunu, has called on all parties involved in the public sector wage negotiations to put the interest of the country first. Mchunu was briefing the media in Pretoria ahead of Friday’s resumption of public sector wage talks where government is expected to present its final offer. He says government has put in a lot of effort ensure that talks succeed despite threats of industrial action from unions.

It’s crunch time government will present its make or break offer to public sector unions on Friday. The talks seem set to deadlock as government is sticking to the zero percent wage increase offer it formally tabled to the unions last week.

Unions are demanding a 7% pay hike. The question on everyone’s lips is whether government will bow to mounting pressure from labour unions. An impasse will make strike action a near certainty.

One union, the Public Servants Association, says it’s expecting a revised offer.

“Should the employer not meet our demand of proper salary increase, the union will have no option but to declare a dispute and embark on an industrial action, once we declare a dispute on Friday the 23rd of April a process of conciliation will take place over 30 days, should conciliation fail then we have an option of embarking on a strike,” says the union’s Claude Naiker.

Minister Mchunu says the wage talks must succeed for the benefit of the country. He has appealed to both parties in the negotiations to seek an outcome that will create stability.

“One of the things government has to ensure is the stability of the country, peace – especially when we are affected by Covid. The vulnerability of the country is very high and when there is instability that vulnerability deepens. That’s why we wouldn’t want to see deepening instability coming from the public sector. That’s why we have made effort to ensure that the talks are a success because we don’t have any other choice,” he explains.

Mchunu says there shouldn’t be a winner emerging from the wage talks.

“We are pleading with all the parties that they listen carefully, if labour rise issues government must listen with respect; similarly labour need to listen to government team and seek to engage in a fair manner. No party should seek to win but endure you’re understood,” he adds.

A public sector strike could affect most basic services that households and businesses rely on. It would also undo some of the gains made to support the economy after the devastating impact of COVID-19.