Taxing time — hundreds of SARS workers out on national strike for higher wages
Nehawu and the PSA have rejected the SA Revenue Service’s offer of a 1.4% increase. The unions are demanding a 7% increase, among other benefits.
Hundreds of South African Revenue Services (SARS) workers picketed outside their offices on Wednesday to mark the start of a nationwide strike for higher wages and benefits.
The workers, affiliated with the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) and the Public Servants Association (PSA), are demanding an across-the-board wage increase of 7%.
This comes as negotiations, which started in January, between union representatives and SARS deadlocked this week. SARS initially tabled no increase, while workers demanded 12%.
According to Nehawu and the PSA, SARS has since offered a 1.4% increase while workers are demanding 7%.
The unions are also demanding, among other things, 10 more days of annual leave specifically for Covid, medical aid, a housing allowance for all employees and a R2,000 “token of appreciation” payment to staff over 60.
In an earlier statement, SARS said: “Like all government institutions, SARS is affected by the financial challenges facing the country, and as a result, in SARS’ funding allocation from the National Treasury, no provision was made for salary increases.”
In Pretoria, about 400 workers and union officials gathered in Madiba Street before marching to the National Treasury building and the revenue service’s head office.
Nehawu’s national spokesperson, Lwazi Nkolisi, told GroundUp that workers would not return to work until an agreement was reached with SARS.
When the large crowd reached the Treasury office, the unions refused to hand over their memorandum of demands to a junior employee who was sent out to accept it. Then deputy director-general for corporate services, Stadi Mngomezulu, came out to sign the memo.
PSA spokesperson Reuben Maleka said: “It’s unfortunate that the action will cripple economic activities until the employer revises their offer to acceptable terms for consideration. We have no other option but to undertake industrial action.”
A SARS worker, who asked for her name to be withheld, said she could not adequately provide for her family on a monthly salary of R6,000 as an assistant administrator. She is a single mother of three young children.
“We hope the strike will convince our employer to give us a better wage, so we can live. This strike is long overdue. Everything is expensive nowadays, food and fuel are going up, yet we still get paid peanuts,” she said.
In Cape Town, about 80 people picketed outside the revenue service’s offices.
Aileen Mosetic, acting provincial manager for the PSA in the Western Cape, said workers are rejecting SARS’ offer of 1.4%.
“We know that there are financial difficulties, but they need to improve their offer,” said Mosetic. She said about 10,000 SARS workers nationwide are included in the wage negotiations.
During a lunchtime picket in Cape Town on Tuesday, Nehawu Western Cape provincial secretary Baxolisa Mali said that following negotiations, SARS offered to use R430-million to give workers a salary hike based on their performance.
Mali said SARS had also offered a once-off cash gratuity of R35,000 for each worker.
“It’s a lot of money for workers on a lower salary scale. But for some workers, that R35,000 will mean little, depending on their employment levels.
”If you give people money once-off, their pension still remains where it is,” said Mali.
The memo was accepted by Willie Viljoen, a regional director in the Western Cape, on behalf of SARS commissioner Edward Kieswetter.
SARS told GroundUp it would only provide detailed answers to questions once the unions had consulted members and responded to SARS. DM
First published on GroundUp.