South Africa May Avert Strike as Government Nears Pay Agreement

South Africa’s government said it’s nearing a pay agreement with unions representing thousands of nurses, teachers and other workers, potentially averting a strike.

“We are very satisfied with the progress that has been made this week and we are confident an agreement will be reached within the next week,” Brent Simons, spokesman for the Ministry of Public Service and Administration, said by phone on Thursday.

Unions representing 1.3 million government workers demanded a 10 percent pay increase, while the state is offering 5.8 percent. South Africa’s inflation rate was 4 percent in March.

“There is a willingness to negotiate and reach a compromise on the side of the unions,” Simons said. “In the last three days of conciliation we’ve actually moved closer together compared to where we were last week.”

State personnel costs have surged 90 percent to 445 billion rand ($37 billion) since 2009 and account for almost 36 percent of total government expenditure, according to data from the National Treasury. The Feb. 25 budget provides for the wage bill to rise by an average 6.6 percent in each of the three years through March 2018.

Mugwena Maluleke, general secretary of the South African Democratic Teachers Union, said by phone that the conciliation process with the government was still ongoing and may conclude in the early hours of Friday.

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