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MANZINI – Government has taken a decision to award a three per cent cost-of-living adjustment (CoLA) to managers and non-unionisable civil servants.

The CoLA will be backdated to April 1, 2022, which is the beginning of government’s financial year and shall also be offered with a once-off one per cent of their annual salary. Such an increase in the salary of civil servants was last implemented in August 2020 wherein a similar offer was awarded to civil servants after three years. This increment will be courtesy of an agreement reached by government with Eswatini Principals Association (EPA). The pair engaged in novel negotiations parallel to those with public sector unions (PSUs), who have from time immemorial been negotiating for civil servants.


Government and the PSUs reached a deadlock on what ought to be the agenda on the joint negotiation forum (JNF) this financial year. Minister of Public Service Mabulala Maseko, through a press statement yesterday, said the decision followed that there was a deadlock between PSUs and the employer (government negotiation team (GNT). Giving a background of the issue, Maseko said government recognised five PSUs as employee representatives of the various categories of public servants, namely: National Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU), Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union (SWADNU), Swaziland National Association of Government Accounting Personnel (SNAGAP) and EPA. The minister said NAPSAWU, SNAT, SWADNU and SNAGAP were members of the JNF, while EPA was not as it represented managers in the education sector.


He said while there was a deadlock between the PSUs and the employer, engagements between EPA and the GNT ensued on April 28, 2022. On the table, Maseko said, was CoLA for the 2022/2023 financial year. This item, he said, had an amount of E220 million set aside through the Appropriations Act No. 1 of 2023. During the negotiations, the minister said the GNT offered three per cent of basic salary across the board with effect from April 1, 2022. He said EPA, on the other hand, countered the offer and demanded six per cent CoLA on the basis that this would cushion the salaries of their members, which had been depleted over the years.  

“As negotiations continued, and appreciating the parlous financial situation of government, EPA eventually moved from her initial CoLA demand of six per cent to a final fall-back position of three per cent demand, plus a once-off sweetener of one per cent of annual basic salary across the board,” Maseko said. He said consequently, at a meeting held last Monday (June 27, 2022), the parties signed a Collective Agreement to implement the three per cent increase of monthly basic salary across the board (CoLA) with effect from the beginning of the government financial year for 2022. In addition to this, the minister said there would be a once-off payment of one per cent of annual basic salary across the board.

Maseko said: “Government, as a matter of law, as well as taking into cognisance the pressing need to financially cushion her employees, will henceforth implement the three per cent of monthly basic salary plus the once-off one per cent of annual basic salary to members of EPA, those employees regarded as managers and those employees who, by the nature of their work, cannot join a union or are non-unionisable.” In fact, the minister said in addition to the E220 million CoLA, government also set aside E55 million for the 2016 Salary Review Appeals and E15 million for the engagement of a consultant to undertake a salary review of the entire public service.


With this budget, he said government was conscious of the erosion of the buying power of salaries for civil servants and was also in full appreciation of the prevailing fiscal and cash flow challenges, which was why the employer invited both the PSUs (NAPSAWU, SNAT, SWADNU and SNAGAP) and EPA at the beginning of the 2022/2023 financial year to present their proposed agenda items that would culminate in a consolidated agenda for the current financial year. Maseko said in a meeting of the JNF held on April 27, 2022, the PSUs and GNT engaged each other with the aim of setting the agenda items for discussion during this financial year according to priority. He said the parties, however, failed to agree on the merging of the agenda items as well as the criteria and justifications used by each party in arriving at the order of priority of the agenda items presented at the table.

“As a result, there from, the parties agreed to disagree and signed a deadlock on the setting of the agenda. The agenda items presented by the GNT were in the following order of priority: CoLA, negotiations framework, finalisation of the salary review appeals and salary review.”  The minister said the PSUs, on the other hand, also presented their list of agenda items in the following order of priority; finalisation of the negotiations framework, allowances, finalisation of salary review appeals, salary review, CoLA for the 2022/23 financial year and quality public service delivery.


Maseko said the proposal from the GNT was to alternate the agenda items until the list was exhausted. However, this proposal, he said, was rejected by the PSUs, who proposed that agenda items that were left pending from the previous financial year 2021/2022 should be first on the agenda. This, he said, was not acceptable to the GNT, who held the view that there was no agreement compelling parties to bring forward items pending from previous financial years, but rather the agenda should be set based on the need for that financial year, hence the deadlock.


“Following the deadlock, the PSAs reported a dispute at (Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration Commission) CMAC. The parties have been summoned to appear before the commission on July 7, 2022 for the conciliation of the dispute.”  The minister said in compliance with the existing Recognition Agreements with NAPSAWU, SNAT, SWADNU and SNAGAP, government would only table the offer to members of EPA, those employees regarded as managers and those employees who, by the nature of their work, could not join a union or are non-unionisable. He said government reiterated and confirmed its readiness and willingness to negotiate and agree on the agenda with the PSUs, which may lead to negotiations on CoLA, its finalisation and implementation as soon as possible.

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