Trade unions reacted angrily on Tuesday to the government's claim that it had made a new wage offer to public servants as they entered the seventh day of a national strike.
"That is not a new offer from the government. Its offer is still seven percent. The government is just misleading the public," said South African Democratic Teachers' Union deputy general secretary Nkosana Dolopi.
Government spokesperson Themba Maseko said on Monday that there was only one tenth of a percentage difference between the unions' demands and the state's offer.
He said the government was "in real terms" offering an 8.5-percent increase, while the unions were demanding an 8.6-percent hike.
Maseko said additional to a seven-percent increase, there was a 1.5-percent pay progression, which came to a total of 8.5-percent.
Unionists slammed his statement as "mischievous".
"The question of the pay progression has always been there… A collective agreement on the pay progression was signed in 2003," said Dolopi.
He said the pay progression was performance-related, and pointed out that teachers only qualified for a one-percent pay progression.
"That is something we need to correct as well," said Dolopi.
The 210 000-strong Public Servants Association (PSA) issued a statement last week warning the public that the government was trying to mislead people by claiming to have added pay progression to its offer.
"The PSA has noted with extreme concern this distribution of incorrect information by the ministry for public service and administration," said spokesperson Manie de Clercq.
He said the pay progression was a "notch increment" for deserving workers.
"Employees who qualify for this increment are therefore entitled to receive it, irrespective of what the annual general increase for public servants will be for 2010," said De Clercq.
"The ministry is clearly grasping at straws and is seeking to artificially inflate its meagre offer, which has driven its entire workforce to strike action."
Maseko acknowledged on Monday that the 1.5 percent "was always on the table", but there had been a "delay in highlighting this fact", and the government now wanted to make this clear to both the public and workers.
Some 1.3 million public workers went on strike on Wednesday to demand an 8.6 percent hike and R1 000 a month housing allowance, compared to the government's offer of seven percent and R700.
The strike has become violent at times, and dozens of protesters have been arrested for public violence, There have been severe service disruptions at schools and hospitals. – Sapa
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