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I'll stay in my lane, says Mboweni as he backs away from wage bill talks

Public sector unions are up in arms over the government’s plan to reduce the wage bill in order to help shrink the deficit and stabilise the country’s soaring debt.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni delivering his Supplementary Budget on 24 June 2020. Picture: GCIS

CAPE TOWN - Finance Minister Tito Mboweni on Wednesday said he was going to be taking a “hands off” approach when it came to negotiations over the Public Service Wage Bill, but he says he is hoping for a positive outcome.

Mboweni said talks with public sector unions fell squarely under Public Service and Administration Minister, Senzo Mchunu.

Public sector unions are up in arms over the government’s plan to reduce the Wage Bill in order to help shrink the deficit and stabilise the country’s soaring debt.

Tabling the mid-term budget policy statement, Mboweni insisted a new consensus needed to be reached on civil servants’ wages, saying they’ve enjoyed increases of an average 7.2% – way above inflation - over the past five years.

Many workers in the private sector have already taken pay cuts so that businesses can survive. Now the spotlight’s on public servants’ wages.

Briefing after his speech, Mboweni stressed the country was in trouble and something has to give.

“We’re in a bind, we’re in a fix here – we need to solve this problem and we can’t proceed as if things are still the same. On this one, I kick for touch for (Public Service and Administration) Minister (Senzo) Mchunu to deal with – I will stay in my lane.”

But Mboweni was adamant that the envelope is only so big.

“I have to be optimistic that a solution will be found which will not break the fiscal framework – that is the issue. We cannot break the fiscal framework – something has to give.”

Treasury Director General Dondo Mogajane weighed in: “Everyone must feel the pain – state owned companies, public entities, members of the national and provincial legislatures – and (Mboweni) made it clear in the House today (Wednesday) that we must look at this, including all senior public officials and political office bearers.

“So it is important that pain is felt and not only (by) the working class.”

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