South African officials and public sector unions failed on Wednesday to reach a wage deal to head off a strike by nearly 1 million civil servants that could cripple commerce in the continent’s largest economy.
The government and unions decided to adjourn talks a few hours ahead of the deadline set by the public services minister with neither side budging from their positions, union officials said. They expect to meet again on Thursday.
The bulk of the unions have threatened to strike next week but analysts believe a deal will be reached to avert a mass labour action that could be the biggest civil servants’ strike since a work stoppage three years ago that slammed the economy, Reuters reports.
“There was no deal reached,” said Manie De Clerq, spokesman for Public Servants Association union, whose members downed tools last week.
The unions want a raise of 8.6 %, more than double the inflation rate, and a housing allowance of 1,000 rand. The government has offered a 6.5 % wage increase and a monthly housing allowance of 630 rand.
Those who have threatened to strike include customs and immigration officers, police, healthcare workers and teachers.
Analysts say the ruling African National Congress (ANC), which has a long-standing alliance with organised labour, is likely to bend to union demands.
It does not want to see a long halt in public services, which could dent support ahead of national elections early next year for almost all local government posts.