The Minister of Public Administration said he was hoping that negotiations with unions over efforts to curb the public wage bill would yield positive results.
The proposed cuts to the wage bill budget formed a key part of the national Budget Speech on Wednesday.
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni told Parliament that R160 billion would be saved through a review of benefits and other salary contributions such as pay progressions.
But organised labour was not happy and plans to take to the streets in protest.
Mboweni delivered what was undoubtedly his boldest budget yet, announcing plans to reduce the compensation bill in national and provincial departments to save R37.8 billion this financial year, R54.9 billion in 2021/22 and R67.5 billion in 2022/23.
Government has skirted around the politically sensitive public sector wage bill for over a decade, allowing expenditure to creep ever higher.
Treasury’s move has pitted the state and the governing ANC against its alliance partner Cosatu, which has described the plans as a declaration of war.
Unions have outright rejected government’s attempt to unilaterally withdraw from the 2018 wage increase that guaranteed workers a 6% wage increase.
But Public Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu was convinced that not all was lost.
“I’m not even talking about details, I’m just saying we are getting organised labour.”
Cosatu parliamentary coordinator Mattew Parks described government’s stance as “political threatrics” which threatened the possibility of labour making any concessions on the wage bill.
“It makes it very difficult for workers to take government seriously as a negotiating partner which has done a lot to try and put workers in a political corner to undermine us.”
Treasury said it will also legislate a remuneration framework for public entities and state-owned companies to contain excessive salaries and other payments.