latest news about the public sector strike in south Africa: 2023 Update
The public sector strike in South Africa has come to an end after months of negotiations and problems. The strike, which started in February 2023, was led by the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU). The largest public sector union in the country. The union demanded a 10% wage increase for all public servants, as well as improved working conditions and benefits.
The Initial offer
The government initially offered a 5% increase, which was rejected by the union as insufficient and below inflation. The government then revised its offer to 6.5%, which was also rejected by the union. The public sector strike intensified in March 2023, affecting essential services such as health care, education and social development.
The government obtained a Labour Court interdict to prevent public servants belonging to NEHAWU from participating in the strike. But the union defied the court order and continued with its industrial action. The public sector strike caused widespread inconvenience and hardship for millions of South Africans who rely on public services. It also put pressure on the government’s fiscal position, as it had to allocate more funds for contingency measures and security operations.
The strike also coincided with the innovation 2023 Conference held in the UK on 21 March 2023. Which brought together government leaders from across the globe responsible for the transformation of public service delivery through digitalisation. The South African delegation, led by Public Service and Administration Acting Minister Thulas Nxesi, had to deal with the negative impact of the strike on the country’s image and reputation.
The final offer
The breakthrough on public sector strike came on 30 March 2023, when the government tabled its final offer at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC). Which is the central bargaining forum for public service wage negotiations. The offer included a two-year multi-term agreement for the financial years 2023/24 and 2024/25, with a pensionable salary increase of 7.5% for employees on levels 1 – 12.
The increase was packaged as follows: translation of the current non-pensionable cash gratuity at the value of 4.2% on the baseline, and a nominal increase of 3.3% across the board. The offer also maintained pay progression of 1.5% for all qualifying public servants.
The offer was accepted by trade unions representing the majority of public servants at the PSCBC, including NEHAWU, on 31 March 2023. The agreement was signed as a resolution of the PSCBC and is binding on all parties to the council. The accepted offer will be implemented with effect from 1 April 2023.
The settlement of the public sector strike has been welcomed by both parties as a fair. And reasonable outcome that balances the interests of public servants and the fiscal sustainability of the state. The agreement also signals a commitment to social dialogue and collective bargaining as mechanisms for resolving labour disputes in a peaceful and constructive manner.
The end of the strike also restores normalcy and stability to public service delivery, which is crucial for meeting the needs and expectations of citizens.