The brewing battle between the federal government and public sector unions just isn’t a shock. It’s been inevitable for a number of years that this battle would have to be fought. Since 2009, South Africa’s public sector staff have obtained well-above-inflation wage will increase, with completely no enchancment of their productiveness.

The dearth of accountability for poor service supply is the issue. Ministers have been modified attributable to political expediency. Director-Generals are “deployed” by the ANC. What a foolish thought it’s for the ANC to deploy bureaucrats! And unions have executed their finest to make sure that underperforming public sector staff can’t be disciplined – whether or not they’re on the frontline or in comfortable jobs in Pretoria.

One in every of my colleagues lately defined to me that the rationale she managed to get an excellent training in considered one of South Africa’s extra impoverished areas was that she attended an “reasonably priced” privately owned college within the district. Her college had no higher assets than the general public faculties within the space – no computer systems, solely chalkboards and desks. Nevertheless, that they had a principal/proprietor who may self-discipline and fireplace underperforming lecturers. Furthermore, the principal/proprietor of the college was incentivised to provide the very best matric outcomes, as that is what attracted extra college students to his college. Not surprisingly, the go fee and grades at her college have been a number of multiples higher than the neighbouring public faculties. 

Whereas the blame for poor efficiency doesn’t relaxation with the common instructor or nurse or policeman, their output has not warranted continued actual wage will increase prior to now decade. Compensation (together with advantages) within the public sector has grown by a mean of eight.5% prior to now three years. In the remainder of the non-agricultural economic system in South Africa, wages have grown by 6% a yr. Since inflation has averaged four.eight% through the interval, public sector staff have obtained vital actual wage will increase. 

To pay for these beneficiant will increase the next undesirable outcomes have occurred: 

  • Capital expenditure budgets have been lower throughout nationwide, provincial and native governments. This has meant delays to high school upgrades, street repairs and the re-equipping of hospitals;
  • Present non-wage budgets have been lower. There are rising tales of hospitals that can’t pay suppliers as they run out of cash 9 months into the yr. If South Africa hopes to make use of authorities procurement to develop small enterprise, these companies have to be paid on time;
  • South Africa has borrowed extra. Because of this, debt curiosity prices now devour 13% of South Africa’s authorities expenditure – greater than double the extent of 10 years in the past; and
  • Restricted adjustment within the funds lately to private revenue tax brackets to compensate for inflation. The February 2020 funds was the primary time in 5 years that full inflation adjustment was offered to tax brackets.

Bracket creep is tax jargon that camouflages the insidious nature of this stealth tax. Let’s quantify this affect for a private-sector employee incomes in the identical area as the common public sector worker (who earned R393,000 in whole compensation in 2019). 

If full inflation aid had been offered to tax brackets since 2015, a employee who was incomes R200,000 a yr in 2014 and obtained inflation will increase over the interval, would have taken dwelling R4,700 extra in 2020 – virtually 2% extra of their gross wage. 

A employee who was incomes R350,000 a yr in 2014 with inflation will increase, would have taken dwelling R8,700 extra this yr. In each circumstances, the employees would have been capable of take dwelling 2% extra of their wage. As a substitute, their revenue was diverted to fund wasteful authorities spending and fairly beneficiant public-sector wage will increase. Why ought to a private-sector employee incomes R200,000 a yr be penalised so a public sector employee, whose productiveness just isn’t rising, can expertise actual wage progress? 

The wage invoice of the general public service is unsustainable. It’s stealing from capital budgets, spending on textbooks and comparatively lowly paid private-sector staff. It’s leading to a surging debt service value that can guzzle a rising share of presidency expenditure. South Africa can not afford it. 

Please notice that nobody is asking public sector staff to earn much less. Minister Mboweni’s Finances solely envisions a slower progress in wages. 

If unions is not going to comply with this, then retrenchments are wanted. If the federal government is severe about taking R37-billion out of the general public sector wage base in 2020, it may be executed in considered one of two methods – both wages develop by much less or staff are lower. Given the weak financial surroundings, the latter is deeply undesirable. Nevertheless, the federal government must be able to implement such a transfer if unions is not going to budge. 

If it’s not, then there isn’t a incentive for unions to reopen a three-year wage settlement that also has another yr to run. If it’s not, then the fiscus will proceed to deteriorate – and public sector staff will proceed to be paid extra to supply little or no. BM


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