May 26, 2007

Unions ready to battle over widening wage gap

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) is flexing its muscle ahead of next month’s African National Congress (ANC) policy conference, with public sector unions warning President Thabo Mbeki and the government that they will not stand for the widening wage gap between rich and poor. The ANC’s alliance partners want a shift in the government’s economic policy and are preparing to do battle at the ruling party’s policy conference in June. The South African Communist Party (SACP) has alleged that the ANC’s policy positions have been hijacked by the “1996 class project”. The SACP has described the project as a “small group of government ministers” who adopted the Growth Employment and Redistribution (Gear) economic policy unilaterally in 1996, which led to the ANC’s shift to the right.
The unions are adamant the country’s economic upswing is not benefiting many and if the government is serious about improving public service delivery, it would accede to their demands, including a 12% wage increase.
According to South African Trade Unions general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, the highest-paid employee in the public sector earned 18 times the wage of the lowest public sector workers. “In 2007, the wage gap in the public service is one to 29. That is not acceptable to us.” He said that if Mbeki had agreed to the 57% pay hike recommended by the Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers, public servants should be paid the 12%. (Business Day, Johannesburg)

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