Despite the forecasting made by Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene during his budget statement, it appears that that commitment will not so easily be met. This follows revelations that there might be strike looming in the Public Service sector. On Saturday, a spokesperson for the Public Service Department revealed that the parties to wage negotiations had come deadlocked and this could pre-empt a strike.
Brent Simons, spokesman for the Public Service and Administration ministry told Reuters that the parties to the negotiations had finally opted for conciliation in order to try and resolve the issues of contention. He added that not all options to find an amicable solution that would benefit all parties have been exhausted. Consequently, he said, they remained hopeful that an agreement can be reached.
The conflict involves the many government employees like nurses, teachers and the police, whose unions are asking for a salary increase of as much as ten percent, which is related to the current rate of inflation in addition to significant increases in housing and medical allowances. The government, on the other hand, is offering a 5.8pc increase which is part of a deal that expires on the 31st of March. South African unions that are affiliated to COSATU were, however not happy with the declaration made by the public service representatives that a strike was looming. Mugwena Maluleke, spokesman for Cosatu’s public sector unions, told news reporters that, “This is unprecedented … The employer is usurping the powers of labour by declaring a dispute so it means they will be going on strike.” Another labour spokesperson, Leon Gilbert, for the independent Public Servants Association, said that it was surprising that the employer had initiated the likelihood of a strike.
Most economic observers have commented that if the strike comes to fruition, this could spell disaster for the country, which is still reeling from record strikes in the mining and manufacturing fields. This, they add, will bring down many aspects of the country’s economy. It will hurt investor sentiment and hit economic growth which was forecast at two percent by the Finance Minister.