South African civil servants demanded a pay rise thats more than double the inflation rate, a week after the nations finance minister insisted the government cant afford increases.
The Public Servants Association, which represents almost a quarter of a million government employees, said they want across-the-board wage increases of inflation plus four percentage points.
Talks on a new pay deal began on Monday.
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni last week presented an annual budget that forecast a smaller-than-expected deficit in coming fiscal years.
Those targets hinge on the government freezing public-sector salaries over the next three years, with the government proposing a significant moderation in spending on wages.
Government will negotiate on the basis of fairness, equity and affordability, Mboweni said on Feb. 24. A pact that exceeds the budgeted amounts would present a risk to the fiscal framework.
Average inflation in South Africa last year was 3.3%.
The PSA is currently fighting to get the government to honor a three-year deal struck in 2018 that the state reneged on last year.
President Cyril Ramaphosas rise to power in 2018 was backed by the partys powerful labor-union allies that vociferously oppose the three-year moratorium on wage increases.
The PSA is also demanding:
- That the government negotiate a single-year, rather than a multi-year wage agreement
- The removal of lower salary bands, which could raise the pay of the lowest-paid civil servants
- A higher housing allowance and a so-called risk-allowance of 12.5% when employees faces disasters such as the Covid-19 pandemic.