Collapse of salary negotiations in the public service and update on the dispute process

The Joint Mandating Committee (JMC) of COSATU, who commands the majority status at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC), wishes to update its members on the state of affairs on the collapse of salary negotiations in the public service. 

This media statement is released to shed some light with our members and the general public following the rejection of the last employer offer by majority unions in the PSCBC. Failure for the offer to enjoy majority support and signatures from parties in council after twenty-one days of circulation resulted in the employer using the constitution of the council in clause 17.10 (b) to withdraw the offer from the table.

As things stands, there is no offer on the table, the decision by the employer to opt for the draft resolution falling away was confirmed in the council sitting of 03rd October 2022. The employer had an option to reopen the matter for discussion or negotiation, however they chose otherwise. With the offer having been withdrawn, we have now gone back to our initial demand of 10% across the board on the cost-of-living adjustment and invoked PSCBC dispute resolution mechanism.  

It is now public knowledge, based on the leaked letter written to the general secretary of the PSCBC and the special council meeting of the 19th October 2022 that the employer is intending to unilaterally implement the very same offer that was officially withdrawn in council. It is very deceitful for the employer to want to present a narrative in the public that seeks to vilify the mandate of workers and the bonafide principle of collective bargaining.

We note these growing tendencies of continuously undermining collective bargaining which will ultimately render PSCBC devoid of power and purpose. The same tendency was seen when the very employer chose to go to court leaving majority of COSATU unions stranded in the arbitration process during the dispute on non-implementation of the last leg of PSCBC resolution 1 of 2018. The arbitration process was clearly stipulated in the set resolution and when we were following the process guided under the auspice of the PSCBC, the employer left us on the ledge when we were ready to respect the prescripts of the institution.

The collective spirit of public sector workers has always been shuffled by the blatant disregard and the continued undermining of collective bargaining by government. We believe that it is about time the that we must make follow up with the complaint lodged by some unions with the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and also officially report government as the employer on this travesty of justice by failing to respect collective bargaining.

Workers cannot tolerate any longer this unbecoming behaviour of the employer undermining social dialogue and wanting to bulldoze their way. Understanding that our members lost their buying power as a result of non-implementation of 2020 salary increase, and they continue to suffer non growth on their pensions due to the effects of non-pensionable cash allowance for the second year in running. It is prudent that we must fight for a better wage increase than what is offered. Furthermore, having considered the economic outlook of government, our demands of a higher percentage above CPI is informed by the fact that the three main items (food, electricity and public transport) which drives the expenditure patterns of our members is way above the set CPI. Considering all factors, the present inflation has set workers in the negative economic path.

This round of negotiations is muddied by the persistent intention of the employer to uphold austerity measures even at the detriment of labour peace. This includes the implementation of what was said by Tito Mboweni in 2020 Budget Speech on behalf of the sixth democratic dispensation where he actually announced R160.2 billion cut from the public service wage bill for 2020/21 to 2022/23. On the back of the misguided ruling of the Labour Appeal Court of South Africa, he felt even more embolden and arrogant enough to make an additional R143.2 billion cut, extending to 2023/24. However, he did not stop there he further announced additional reversals of the collective bargaining gains in the public service, predetermining the outcomes of 2021/22 and 2022/23 rounds of the PSCBC negotiations, including:

•         Job cuts through “measures to reduce headcounts” through early retirement and natural attrition;

•         The freezing or abolishing of the so-called non‐critical posts;

•         The harmonisation and reviewal of allowances and benefits;

•         The revision of pay-progression (PSCBC Resolution of 5 of 2001) rules and the Occupation-Specific Dispensations (PSCBC Resolution 1 of 2007) 

Public service continues to suffer due to non-filling of funded vacant post amid growing demands for quality service. Workers have been in the receiving end of this policy drive while at the same time expected to deliver the utmost best. It is therefore very disappointing for the employer who has openly declared to have wage freeze for public service employees in the name of fiscal consolidation while the high earning parliamentarians and politicians are having a free ride on increases.         

We have also noticed the unbecoming tendency by the employer to negotiate through the media including the attempt to drive the propaganda of an offer of cash allowance that is said to be at 4.5%. The so called 4.5% is not real as it does not have any effect on the baseline and is saving employer massively. For the second year now, the employer has not paid any pensions and continues to save about 13% on the cost-to-company obligations. It is without any doubt that the employer will continue to favour this cash gratuity arrangement and will push it longest of period in order to realise this savings that are meant to better the pensions of public servants.     

The employer reiterated that the only provision is as per the budget amount and there seem to be no intention to find additional budget to meet the demands of workers as presented. In the spirit of engaging in good faith we believe the posture of employer is disingenuous as there seem to be no consideration for any increase that will buffer the growing cost of living experienced by public sector workers. Our demand of 10% across the board on the cost-of-living adjustment which takes into consideration the volatile economic conditions and the rising inflation which is above the expected nominal bands of 3% and 6%, remains justified.

We have since declared a dispute and the conciliation is schedule for the 31st of October and the 01st of November 2022 at the PSCBC offices. We have resolved to rally our collective might to push the employer to better the rejected offer and will use everything in our power to register our disdain to the powers that be, including to the highest office in the land. We will show our anger through many activities and campaigns over this period commencing with a mass picket demonstrations across provinces.  

Workers have given a clear mandate to fight for improvement and we have since developed a program of action to attain their wishes. We are rolling out our POA that will have expression across the length and breadth of our country, to every part where we organise, and we welcome all workers to join the action irrespective of their affiliation. For starters we shall also be setting a special provincial coordination through resuscitation of provincial JMC. This JMC will ensure that the momentum is kept high in provinces and locals where we organise.  All public servants will be mobilised to rally around this just course of fight for better remunerations in the public service.  

Workers are resolute and have resolved to be on the picket line until their demands are met.


For information and comment, contact:

Simon Hlungwani,

JMC Convener: 082 328 9635