South Africa: Govt Makes a U-Turn in Fight With Unions Over Public Servants' Salary Increases

analysis

After holding the line on wage freezes for public servants since February 2020, the government has had a change of heart. A day before the start of court proceedings over salary increases, the government now wants to enter into out-of-court settlement talks with public servants.

After insisting since February that public servants will face a pay squeeze and not receive inflation-busting salary increases to help restore public finances, the government had an abrupt change of mind on Tuesday 1 December.

A day before the start of a long-awaited case at the Labour Appeal Court on Wednesday 2 December over salary increases, the government extended an olive branch to trade unions representing 1.2 million public servants including teachers, nurses and police officers.

The government wants the court case to be postponed to after 1 February 2021 to buy it more time to negotiate an out-of-court settlement with trade unions. February is a crucial month for the government as it finalises departmental budgets, including the expenditure on salaries for public servants.

But the trade unions that have dragged the government to court - including the Public Servants' Association and others affiliated to Cosatu - do not support the postponement and want the...

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