|September 29, 2004
Government and unions reach wage agreement
Government and public sector trade unions have signed a final 6,2 percent wage agreement, bringing to an end strenuous negotiations deadlocked since July. A 75,52 percent union consensus was reached for government's revised offer, the largest consensus percentage reached in the history of public service wage negotiations. In terms of the agreement, public servants will receive a 6,2 percent wage increase backdated to July this year and for the remaining two years of the multi-term agreement. In addition, the agreement allows for the phasing in of a housing allowance for all permanent employees and increased medical assistance.
Speaking in Pretoria, Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi expressed satisfaction at the outcome of the meeting, saying the signing brought to an end a "long and arduous journey". The minister further said tensions brought by the negotiations only served to strengthen the relationship between the two parties and that government would continue to engage labour as a social partner in other matters of mutual interest that go beyond wage negotiations.
Unions agreed that although the agreement was not perfect, it met the needs of public sector workers and allowed enough room for future negotiations on issues that still remained challenges. "This agreement has been signed by our members through us and the things that they wanted have been largely dealt with. We have a permanent relationship with government and there are certain harsh realities that we have to deal with, but that does not mean we are enemies," said Willy Madisha of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU).
(Bua News, Pretoria)