Ramaphosa flips off unions with 3% salary increase for public office-bearers

President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jul 9, 2023


President Cyril Ramaphosa is believed to have shown the middle finger to unions after he decided to increase the salaries of public office-bearers by 3%.

Political analysts said the decision showed that Ramaphosa was not bothered about the unions who raised issues of unemployment, load shedding, inequality and poverty, among others.

The president announced last week that he had made a determination to increase the salaries of all public office-bearers by 3% with effect from April 1, 2022.

The increase followed recommendations made by the Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office-Bearers on the annual salary for all public office-bearers, submitted to the president on April 17.

The decision will see the salaries of mayors, premiers, ministers, members of parliament, judges and traditional healers going up.

The unions raised issues about the poor economic environment, unemployment, inequality, poverty and load shedding.

Political analyst Professor Sipho Seepe said the size of the increase showed that Ramaphosa was not bothered about the unions because he knew that they would still back the ANC.

“He knows very well that these very unions will be changing their tune come elections time. The leadership of unions will throw (in) their lot with the ANC despite the repeated failure of the ANC government to honour its commitment.

“There is no reason for President Ramaphosa to be bothered by the people who can easily be bought,” said Seepe.

Another political analyst, Sandile Swana, said although a 3% increase was below inflation but at the same time “we must ask if the productivity of the public sector has improved at all in the past 10 years”.

“The answer is no. Residents and local businesses are getting less and less value from the public sector as a whole. In reality, the public sector is destroying wealth and income across all economic sectors in South Africa. There is therefore an overpayment gap that demands that wages be arrested. There is wrong staffing in the public sector which warrants attrition,” Swana said.

The decision also saw unions expressing their dissatisfaction with Ramaphosa.

The SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) said the increase was not welcomed based on three factors.

“One is that the public office-bearers already earn obscene salaries. Two, public servants are offered another below-inflation increase, at a 3.3% increase for 2023/24. And three, in the context of the damage (inflicted through mismanagement, incompetence and corruption) they have caused (and are still causing) to our country, these public office-bearers do not deserve any increase,” said spokesperson Trevor Shaku.

He said public office-bearers were not affected by inflation in the same way that it affected all ordinary workers in the economy.

“They receive benefits such as car allowances, free residence, free flights and free security, amongst others. The increase in their salaries is quite unjustifiable, especially when Treasury is targeting the compensation bill for public service workers as a site of fiscal consolidation.

“The Public Service Compensation Bill is being trimmed to accommodate the austerity measures that are proposed by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to wrestle with what they call fiscal risks. This trimming has affected the capacity of public service departments to increase the headcount, and the current employees to get above-inflation increases,” said Shaku.

Cosatu parliamentary co-ordinator Matthew Parks said this was a tone-deaf and embarrassing decision that should have been rejected by Ramaphosa.

Parks said what was most galling was that Ramaphosa chose to ignore the recommendation by the National Treasury for a 1.5% increase and instead opted to increase it to 3%.

“World Bank reports show that South Africa remains the most unequal country in the world, and South Africa continues to be burdened with an unemployment rate of 42.6% and rising. The South African working class is facing mounting social challenges and it’s about time that political leaders show some solidarity with the suffering masses.

“Load shedding, the rising cost of living, corruption and a stagnant economy have all happened under the watch and leadership of political office-bearers. They do not deserve the packages they currently earn, let alone an increase in their salaries,” said Parks.