The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) have labelled Finance Minister Tito Mboweni's 2020 budget "provocative" and his plans to curb the civil service wage bill an unwarranted attack on workers.
The union held a media briefing in Johannesburg on Thursday, following its three-day central executive committee meeting.
"Cosatu finds the government’s continuous attacks on public servants silly and tiresome. Little recognition is given to the conditions facing public servants, like being overworked and underpaid," the trade union federation said.
According to National Treasury, civil servants' wages have grown by about 40 per cent over the past 12 years.
During his budget address, Mboweni announced huge expenditure cuts over the medium term. A R160bn drop in the remuneration costs for national and provincial administrations and other public bodies will form the bulk of the anticipated R261bn in savings.
The government had told the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council on Tuesday that it intended to withdraw from the existing wage agreement.
The minister said he believed the labour movement and National Treasury would “find each other” on the subject, but Cosatu took a combative stance, saying that treasury has already made up its mind and there is no space for negotiations.
The federation, which is in alliance with the governing ANC, vowed to escalate the matter with the party.