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South Africa Union and Government Officials to Meet over Wage Dispute

  • Peter Clottey

South Africa President Jacob Zuma

The spokesman for the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) says his group will demand a bigger pay increase at a scheduled meeting with senior government officials Thursday.

Patrick Craven said there is a need for President Jacob Zuma’s government to improve upon its previous pay offer.

“The strike has been suspended while we wait to see what he [Minister Richard Baloyi] proposes at a meeting which is being held today, Thursday at 6pm, South African time. And, we obviously all hope that he will come up with some big improvements in the government offer, which can be recommended to the membership for acceptance,” he said.

COSATU reportedly suspended a nationwide strike after Richard Baloyi, the Public Service and Administration Minister, called for a meeting to negotiate with officials of the trade unions over their demands.

On Tuesday, an estimated one million public service workers went on a one-day strike to press home their demand for a pay increase.

The workers want an 8.6 percent pay raise, about a double the current inflation rate of 4.2 per cent, as well as a 1,000 rand ($137.22) monthly housing allowance.

But, the South African government offered the workers a 7 percent increase and 630 rand ($86.44) monthly housing allowance.

Analysts say the government wants to avert a prolonged nation-wide strike that could potentially impede South Africa’s burgeoning economy.

Observers say the ruling African National Congress Party (ANC), which draws considerable support from COSATU, will want to resolve the stalemate ahead of the party’s policy-setting meeting which is scheduled for next month.

COSATU spokesman Craven said the group stands by its demands.

“The union has always pushed any employer as far as possible and the government is no exception. We have, from the outset, not accepted the argument that there is no money available. This is the government that has wasted millions of rands on World Cup tickets for its top officials and five-star hotel accommodations for the government ministers and senior civil servants,” Craven said.

He also said that the government has misplaced its priorities by spending lavishly on senior government officials rather than paying reasonable wages to hard-working public sector employees.