The newly appointed Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu says the public servants wage increase currently being offered by government would cost the country R30 billion and that government could not afford anything more than that.
Sisulu said any unrealistic settlement would impact negatively on pro-poor policy, especially poverty alleviation efforts and infrastructure spending.
In that regard, the minister called on the labour unions to come back to the wage negotiation table, saying the matter should be dealt with amicably.
Negotiations between government and the unions broke down last week when government made its final offer. The unions declared a wage dispute.
At the opening of negotiations, labour unions demanded a 10% across the board increase. This was later reduced to an 8% cost of living adjustment. Among other things, they are demanding a year-agreement, while government insists on a multi-year agreement.
Government is offering a complete package of a 9% wage increase – made up of 6.5% in wages and salaries and 2.5% in benefits.
Addressing the National Press Club in Pretoria today, the minister explained that the offer includes recognition of long service, an increase in night shift allowance, a cash bonus of 10% of employee's salary on improvement of qualifications as well as an increase in shop steward, family responsibility and pre-natal leave.
"We as government are extremely committed to the needs of our people," she said, adding that government was committed to a change that people could embrace.
Sisulu said government remained committed to the negotiations.
"I am convinced we will find each other around the table. We need to broaden the conversation which has been too narrowly determined by such a time as we are in now.
"We are sensitive to the needs of labour and equally to those of our people. We ask that together we be sensitive in balancing this with the needs of our people in the time of a global economic crisis," said Sisulu.
She was moved from the Defence portfolio to Public Service by President Jacob Zuma when he made changes to the National Executive last week.
At the briefing, Sisulu was accompanied by her deputy, Ayanda Dlodlo and the department's Director-General and other senior officials.