South African civil servants have planned to march to the National Treasury in the administrative capital Pretoria and in the country’s other eight provinces next Tuesday to pressure the government over a wage dispute.
The largest trade union federation in the country, COSATU, and other federations representing the majority of the more than 1 million public sector workers told a news conference on Thursday that they would continue to protest until the government improves its 3% salary increase offer.
Wage negotiations between unions and the government collapsed in early October, with the government subsequently saying it would unilaterally implement the 3% increase outlined in October’s mid-term budget.
The Treasury has been trying to rein in spending on civil servants’ compensation, which makes up around a third of consolidated spending.
“This is the beginning and it will go on until we declare an indefinite strike. Whether it happens now or early next year will depend on how government responds on November 22,” December Mavuso, deputy general secretary of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union, told reporters.
If the marches mushroom into a full-blown public sector strike it would be the first major one since 2010, potentially disrupting critical government services in places like hospitals and border posts.
The Public Servants Association (PSA), a union representing 245,000 civil servants, earlier this month held a separate march over the wage issue in Pretoria, handing over a list of demands. Union officials said on Thursday that the government had not yet responded to the PSA’s demands.