CAPE TOWN- South Africa's public sector unions want a general salary rise of consumer inflation plus 4% for all workers, according to a labour document presented on Monday, as talks began over a new wage deal.
The list of 16 demands, which includes better housing payments and a risk allowance of 12% of basic salary because of the COVID-19 pandemic, comes amid heightened tension between unions representing more than 1 million teachers, nurses and police and the state over salaries.
Public sector unions, including those from the COSATU federation aligned with the governing African National Congress (ANC), have approached South Africa's highest court to try to force National Treasury to pay the final tranche of the preceding three-year wage settlement struck in 2018.
Workers received their salary hikes in the first two years, but National Treasury baulked at paying around 37 billion rand for the final year starting in April 2020, saying the final hike was unaffordable amid the economic devastation caused by COVID-19.
In December, the Labour Appeals Court ruled in Treasury's favour, but aggrieved unions quickly challenged the judgment at the constitutional court, which is yet to hear the challenge.
Asked to comment on the latest wage demands, the spokeswoman for the Department of Public Service and Administration, said: "We are keen to engage substantively on the matter but are however unable to do so at this juncture, given that negotiations have just commenced."
(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Edmund Blair and Alex Richardson) ((firstname.lastname@example.org; +27 21 461 3523;))