UPDATE ON PUBLIC SECTOR WAGE NEGOTIATIONS FROM FEDUSA-AFFILIATED TRADE UNIONS
14 March 2023
Trade Unions affiliated with the Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) are happy to report back to members and the public that there have been significant strides made in the wage negotiations underway for the period 2023/2024. Earlier today (14/03/2023), the employer tabled a revised offer of an average 7% to organised labour which comprises the majority of unions in the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC), despite the absence of those who elected to boycott the process.
Fedusa unions were clear at the onset of these negotiations that its members would not tolerate nor accept a wage increase which will not help offset the impact of the spiralling cost of living. The fact that the employer is near the inflation benchmark in the proposal that has been tabled has given us renewed faith in the power of collective bargaining.
These negotiations have continued while public servants suffered the ire of their communities as other unions elected to take part in detrimental industrial action over historical issues. While Fedusa affiliates in the sector acknowledge that the issues that led to the strike are critical, it would have been ideal that labour collaborates in its efforts to secure workers reasonable wage increases in council, the only place we believe negotiations can successfully be held.
Organised labour negotiators have been hard at work, pressing ahead with the members’ mandate of a 10 percent wage increase, among other demands. While further details of where the government stands on housing and medical aid among others will be shared in due course, labour has also in the spirit of peaceful and fruitful negotiations, made a compromise.
As such, unions in the chamber moved from the initial 10 percent demand to 8 percent, bringing the parties closer to one another. Fedusa’s posture has always been that our approach to the negotiations is in good faith, understanding that it’s a give-and-take process.
Labour’s initial demands included a single-year term agreement and an increase of R2500 monthly housing allowance. As matters stand, the employer has proposed a three-year term with CPI plus 0,5% in year 2 and CPI only in year 3.
Labour has rejected the proposed term of the agreement, however, placed it on record that workers are amenable to a 2-year term with the second-year increase set at CPI plus 1,5%.
Organised labour in the council expects that a follow-up meeting will be held soon, with the expectation that the employer will revert to the response tabled by unions.
We foresee that the negotiations will conclude before the end of the month, bringing hard-working public service employees much relief, instead of the norm where talks drag on for months while they suffer the consequences of shrinking salaries. In fact, we may witness a record turn-around time in public sector wage negotiations.
Fedusa affiliates: NAPTOSA, PSA, HOSPERSA, SAOU along with Cosatu-affiliated SADTU attended the council meeting today, constituting the majority of parties in the PSCBC, at 53,9%.
We also note that the minority group that chose to boycott the wage negotiations since the onset of the process attempted to sneak back into the chamber today to present their demands. We deem this as the highest level of disrespect for the very workers they represent who remained on the streets and on picket lines on the premise that the solution to their frustrations would emanate from the strike. We are also aware that they have sought political interventions while promising workers that their toil, which pitted them against the very communities they serve would yield fruit.
While the PSCBC is a democratic space where all recognised parties can engage in peaceful negotiations, presenting fresh demands at this stage of negotiations, as we near the end of the sensitive talks could undo all the gains the majority unions have secured for workers thus far. This is the reason parties agree on a timeline that would be followed as negotiations take place. It is to avoid a situation where the efforts of the majority are thwarted by a minority that chose to protest instead of coming to the negotiation table.
Fedusa-affiliated public service unions want to assure its members in all departments and government agencies represented at the PSCBC that it is their interests that remain at the heart of all the steps negotiators have taken and will take. That it is their mandates that pave the way forward for how these negotiations will eventually conclude.