South Africa: Public Sector Workers March to Parliament, Reject 3 Percent Wage Increase

Unions are demanding 10%. Inflation is just shy of 8%.

  • Public sector workers marched to Parliament on Friday to demand a 10% wage increase
  • They have rejected government’s 3% wage increase.
  • They have called on government to return to the negotiating table.

Amina Pinto says she has been working as a nurse for more than 40 years and takes home R15,000 a month. “I’ve been a senior staff nurse and that is my salary,” she said.

She joined about 70 other public sector workers on Friday who marched to Parliament.

Workers have rejected a 3% wage increase. Unions are demanding a 10% increase.

Weeks of negotiations in the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council have reached a deadlock. The protesters called on government to return to the negotiating table.

Last month, a nation-wide protest was organised by unions affiliated to trade union federations SAFTU, COSATU and FEDUSA. But the Western Cape leg of the march had been postponed due to a taxi strike in Cape Town.

Speaking to GroundUp, Pinto said she spends R2,000 a month to travel from Paarl to her work in Bellville. She has been unable to find accommodation closer to work. After her bond payments and travel she has about R3,000 left to buy food and provide for her family.

“With that 3% I can only buy one loaf of bread and a pint of milk. As a single parent, working everyday for four kids, it’s hard for me,” said Pinto.

“I’m about to retire, but I can’t,” she said.

Motlatse Tsubane, COSATU provincial chair, said that by tabling a 3% wage offer, government is “undermining the collective bargaining process”.

“Government is talking about a social compact whereby we come together and put our ideas on the table. But it’s only certain sectors within that space that they take seriously, like businesses and themselves.”

“There is a crisis of food, electricity, petrol and all of that has increased. But when you look at the salaries of people, it’s very low. We are asking government to come to the table,” said Eleanor Roberts, provincial chair of the Democratic Nurses Organisation of South Africa.

She said the offer is below the inflation rate. She said health workers should be appreciated as they were “the front line” during the Covid pandemic.

They are also demanding that government revise the minimal service agreement which prevents workers in essential services from participating in strikes.

The memorandum, which gives seven days for a response, was signed by Nyiko Mabunda, acting director general of human resource management and development, on behalf of Thulas Nxesi, Minister of Public Service and Administration.

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