- President Cyril Ramaphosa pledged to keep government spending to a minimum in an attempt to keep the budget deficit
- Unions representing some 1.3 million public are unlikely to believe that government cannot afford the wage increase which they demand
- Wage negotiations between government and unions have dragged on for more than 7 months
The looming wage dispute between the government and unions representing some 1.3 million public sector workers has President Cyril Ramaphosa in a catch-22. Ramaphosa has pledged to stick to strict spending targets which aim to keep the budget deficit in check.
This means the government cannot afford the 12% wage increase demanded by certain unions, yet Ramaphosa can ill-afford to alienate unions ahead of the 2019 general elections or risk strikes which could stunt economic growth.
Ramaphosa owes a huge debt to those unions which backed his campaign to become the president of the ANC last year and to some degree ensured his victory at Nasrec and ultimately his replacing Jacob Zuma as president of the country.
Briefly.co.za gathered that according to political analysts unions are unlikely to believe Ramaphosa’s argument that the government cannot afford the increases which they are demanding.
Wage negotiations have already dragged on for more than seven months and eight of the unions, which represent teachers, nurses and other government employees have warned they won’t tolerate the government’s delay tactics much longer.
Wage negotiations were due to resume on Tuesday, but the government requested a delay until 3 May to give itself time to consult. The current pay deal expires at the end of March and any new deal will be backdated.
“There is an inadequate offer on the table, we caution government against creating an environment that will force workers to consider withdrawing their labour and embark on what will be a calamitous strike,” the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the country’s largest labour group, said in a statement.
“We understand the urgency of the situation and the need to conclude these talks timeously, but we also want to ensure that we package a deal that is workable and sustainable for both government, labour and the South African public in general,” Naledi Pandor said Monday.
Economists have warned that keeping the wage bill in check will be critical in the government’s effort to lower the budget deficit to 3.6% of GDP.
Civil servants account for roughly 21% of the total South African workforce. In the third quarter of last year, 48.9% of all tax revenues collected was spent on wages for this group.
Ramaphosa has not directly commented on the looming wage deadlock, but has in the past said the civil service must become more efficient and that the configuration and size of national government departments must be reviewed.
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