Business Edge | Workers in South Africa Demand 10% Wage Increase

The Congress of South Africa’s Trade Unions (COSATU) which comprises twenty-one workers’ unions including the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union and the National Union of Mine Workers is demanding a 10% increase in the wages South Africa pays its public workers. The union which is by and large exercising its right under the collective bargaining policy that gives workers the opportunity to ask for better pay and conditions of service has given the government until May 19th to respond to its request. Already, the Ramaphosa government has let it be known that this is unlikely, at least for now as its budget for wages this financial year stood at 20 billion rands and if it were to implement the demanded increase, it would need to source for an additional 40 billion rand from other sources. The question it and other observers are asking is: where will the money come from? The disparity between what the workers want and what the government is willing to pay is significant and sets the stage for a showdown in the coming weeks. Tolulope Adeleru-Balogun discusses this with Simon Hlungwani, the president of the Democratic Nursing Organization of South Africa on Business Edge.

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Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, public workers along with other citizens of South Africa, have had a tough time with the inflation that has driven living costs to unbearable levels. This is also in addition to the massive wave of job losses and unemployment across the country. At the beginning of the pandemic, the government said it couldn’t afford to review the wages and have yet to do so. Meanwhile, there have been hikes in the prices of food, fuel and electricity while wages have stayed the same.

The workers are also not excluding strike action to drive home their demands. “In 2021 government pleaded poverty. This year, workers will exercise their right to demonstrate and to have mass protests and many other measures of putting pressure on the government,” Simon Hlungwani says.

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