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Bringing SA to a halt — 800,000 public servants set to go on wage strike

Bringing SA to a halt — 800,000 public servants set to go on wage strike
The Public Servants Association strike on 10 November 2022 in Durban. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart)

On Tuesday’s so-called National Day of Action, hundreds of thousands of South Africa’s public servants will either be on a go-slow or not go to work, affecting many government services — including at hospitals, schools, police stations and prisons.

About 800,000 public servants — or 62% of the public sector workforce — are set to go on strike on Tuesday, 22 November, to demand pay increases of at least 6.5% or an amount linked to consumer inflation.

On the so-called National Day of Action, public servants will either be on a go-slow or not go to work, which may bring many services to a halt. The protest action is being organised by public service unions affiliated with Cosatu, the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), and the Federation of Trade Unions of SA (Fedusa).

A protest will be held at the National Treasury’s offices in Pretoria, as well as at other government-operated facilities across South Africa.

Some of the sectors to be affected by the protest action include schools, hospitals, border posts, home affairs offices, police stations, prisons, transport activities and state offices.

Addressing the media last week, a spokesperson for Cosatu and other public sector unions said the government had failed to address the needs of workers and the poor as the cost of living continued to rise.

“The unilateral implementation gives us — the unions — no reason to engage with the [Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council]. We are no longer just fighting for a decent wage; we are fighting to keep the right to bargain in the face of continuous efforts by the government to undermine bargaining,” said the spokesperson.

The public sector strike comes after the government rejected demands by trade unions to increase public servants’ pay by 10% in May. It said the increase was unaffordable and exceeded its current budget to remunerate public servants. 

public sector strike

Civil servants strike on 10 November 2022 in Durban. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart)

Instead of an increase, the government proposed to continue to award South Africa’s 1.3 million public servants an after-tax cash gratuity (or bonus) of R1,000 a month in 2022. The government has also advocated for the implementation of a 3% pay rise for public servants instead of the requested 10%.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Government rejects 10% pay hike demand by public sector trade unions 

Final offer

In the latest attempt to avert a nationwide strike, the government made a final offer of an effective 7.5% wage increase on Thursday, 17 November.

Acting Public Service and Administration Minister Thulas Nxesi said the offer had two components: a 3% salary increase and a R1,000 cash allowance, which equates to a 4.5% increase for the lowest-paid workers.

“This R1,000 cash allowance was a once-off … but it now forms part of the new offer.”

Nxesi urged unions to return to the negotiating table “to resolve all disputes” and settle the matter of wages ahead of the next year’s Budget being tabled.


In a joint statement, Cosatu, Fedusa and Saftu slammed the government’s latest wage offer of 7.5%, describing it as “misleading”. The unions have accused the government of presenting the same offer, differently.

public servants

Public Servants Association members protest in Pretoria on 10 November 2022. (Photo: Gallo Images / OJ Koloti)

“There was never a 7.5% offer that was presented at the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council… This latest attempt by the acting minister is but an outdated exercise to try to demobilise workers’ ongoing demonstrations which will culminate in a national day of action on Tuesday, 22 November 2022. For the last two years, workers have not received any increase but have been given an untaxed R1,000 stipend across the board.

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“It was extended at the beginning of this financial year while negotiations were ongoing. The only offer that was presented by the government was a 3% baseline salary increase across the board.

“The government has sneakily decided to combine the R1,000 stipend, and a 3% baseline increase in its calculations and rounded it up to a fictitious 7.5% increase. This means the government is making an extraordinary claim that this R1,000 stipend amounts to 4.5% and combined with their current 3% offer, this amounts to 7.5%,” the statement reads.

Daily Maverick sent questions to the Department of Public Service and Administration about its 3% offer and about its plans if departments were shut down by the strike.

The department had not responded by the time of publishing. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Charles Parr says:

    Maybe a civil service strike is the only way these people will learn what no money to pay you more means. Probably not, because government will roll over in order to protect themselves.

  • Neven Govender says:

    Reality check. SA is being held hostage by unions. During COVID, public servants were paid full salaries to stay at home, while the private sector went into short time or retrenchments. Further, many public servants are not delivering on services. Eg. Home affairs. Visit any site and watch the lazy attitude of some staff. There is no service delivery. Competition commission needs to disband unions that are so large. CC throws a fuss when private companies have a monopoly on trade, but will leave unions eg cosatu to have a monopoly over so many departments.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    “The department didn’t respond ….” – the department never responds, even when it’s not on strike. As evidence: potholes, no lights, no water, leaking sewers, shambolic schools, ineffective police, trashed streets, unlicensed taxis, etc, etc,. Viva, ANC, Viva.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    They don’t do any work anyway so a strike will make not a jot of difference! LOL!

  • Johan Buys says:

    Public service strike? Nobody will notice the difference beyond traffic disruption.

  • Peter Oosthuizen says:

    On strike? How will we know?

  • Rg Bolleurs says:

    Every time you grossly overstaff a company or government department you just create a rod for your back.

    Now there are about 1 million govt employees, enough to cause you huge problems.

  • sl0m0 za says:

    I predict that we will see no difference in service delivery…..

  • jeyezed says:

    Civil servants on a go slow will be indistinguishable from normal performance levels. These leeches on the public finances need to realise that they should be grateful for the excellent salaries that they receive, and that they have no grounds to support any kind of improvement in them. They must also realise that more money can only be considered if they improve efficiency or reduce costs.

    • Maria Janse van Rensburg says:

      If I was convinced that the officials are honouring their contracts to work for 8 hours a day, I would support their demand for a salary increase. Unfortunately, the public service is extremely unproductive resulting in undue delays in issuing important documents such as permits and compliance certificates applied for by existing and potential businesses. This has a direct impact on growth in the economy and in creating much needed jobs. The sooner the public service is professionalised the better. Many officials show no pride in the work they are employed to do. The public is made to feel like an irritation. The officials together with the unions display a lack of understanding for the state of the economy and even less empathy for the millions of people who do not have jobs. The quality and quantity of their work has a direct impact of the health of the South African economy. This government is acting responsibly by curbing excessive pay hikes. I challenge the workers in the public sector to prove to us that they are worthy of a pay increase. Make sure you are at your desk or whatever workstation you occupy to serve the public with pride, a smile and effectiveness. I want to qualify my comments by excluding those public servants that do honour their contracts. They are the real heroes and should be recognised and supported.

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