WITH more than 70% of the Eastern Cape government’s budget already dedicated to salaries, the new public servants’ wage increase of 7% is unaffordable, according to DA provincial legislature leader Bobby Stevenson.

The announcement of a 1% above inflation salary hike by Public Service Minister Lindiwe Sisulu earlier this week comes in the wake of Finance MEC Phumulo Masualle’s statement in March that the province was battling a bloated administration.

Stevenson likened the provincial government to an employment agency. “Our wage bill is far too high at the moment . . . “If you look at the total budget and take out the conditional grants funding, which is money paid to the province from national government for specific projects, then 77% of the budget is dedicated to salaries,” he said.

“Over the last few years, the wage bill has increased hugely, without a general improvement in service delivery.

“The province simply cannot afford an above-inflation increase because it means there is less money available for service deliver y.”

Masualle said previously the provincial government had a “topheavy organisational structure with too little capacity at points of deliver y”.

Sisulu said on Tuesday that the wage increase was effective from May, and for 2013 to 2015 the increase would also be inflation plus 1%.

Public servants would also get more annual leave and cash awards for long service.

“This three-year agreement allows for the employer and labour to implement all elements of the agreement,” Sisulu said.

“The three years are also in line with government’s planning cycle and will ensure stability and proper planning for both parties.”

While the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) said the increase was not excessive, it was concerned about the inadequate performance of the public service.

PSAM acting co-director Jay Kruuse said there was inadequate monitoring of the provincial government, a fact which was raised consistently by the auditor-general.

“We need to have major improvement in the performance management of staff,” Kruuse said.

National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union Eastern Cape secretary Xolani Malamulela said: “Even though we are not happy about the entire package, we are fine. The only grey area for us is the implementation date of May 1.”

He said the 7% increase included an additional R100 on the existing R800 housing allowance.

Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber chief executive Kevin Hustler said: “Any increase would need to strike a balance between addressing the increasing costs of living for employees and affordability for the employer, and we would expect that these salary negotiations have been concluded on that basis.”