The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has urged taxpayers to avoid coming to its offices amid industrial action by staff over wage demands.
On the first day of the strike on Wednesday, SARS said customs operations at ports of entry, especially borders, were without major interruptions.
In a statement, the revenue collector said all customs border posts are operational with contingencies in place mitigating the impact of the industrial action.
Due to the wide range of online services, disruption to the operations was minimal, it said.
The revenue service will continue to monitor developments over the next few days.
“Our website will continually be updated to advise the public on how to engage with SARS to fulfil their required obligations.
“SARS Customs will continue to rely on the support of other government agencies across all border posts, especially from the South African Police to ensure that there is continued operation,” reads the statement.
On the strike, SARS said organised labour had opted to embark on industrial action despite concerted efforts by SARS to avert the strike.
SARS believes that its offer, to which it has received no response, is the best under the prevailing socio-economic challenges facing the country. “SARS is also limited by the resources available to it from the funding grant,” the revenue collector said.
SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter said he understood and empathised with the financial challenges faced by SARS employees and the general public.
He said: “In fact, all South Africans, especially millions who are unemployed, suffer the impact of the current economic climate. SARS is a microcosm of the broader society and the sentiment of discontent is understandable, especially when they have a sense that the current situation is unlikely to change in the short term.
“Employees do not willingly withhold their labour because that in itself has a financial impact on them under already tough times. One has to understand though, that when workers feel frustrated they feel that by going on strike is the last resort for them to be heard.”
He said SARS recognised the constitutional right of workers to strike and express themselves within the provisions of the law.
“The important work of SARS has to continue and we will take whatever steps necessary to balance the impact of the strike with our responsibility to discharge the important responsibility of providing important services to taxpayers and collecting all tax revenues due.
“This very revenue pays the salaries of government employees and provides the necessary resources to provide public goods and services. The work of SARS is transformative and enables government to build a capable that fosters sustainable economic growth and social development in the interest and well-being of all South Africans.”
No work, no pay
SARS said it had explained to employees that the principle of “no work, no pay” would apply, and urged union leadership to give a formal response to its latest offer in order to settle the stalemate.
Kieswetter said accepting the SARS proposal was “the best we can do under the current funding constraints”.
“SARS simply do not have the resources to meet the labour demand of CPI plus 7%. I understand that our offer is not what our employees want, but it holds the real possibility of resolving the current industrial action at a time where employees in the entire public service are affected,” he said.
He said the revenue service realised that remuneration and benefits has not kept up with inflation in recent years.
“In a country that is faced with high unemployment and other socio-economic challenges, SARS employees already have security of tenure, as well as market related salaries and benefits.
“This offer, whilst not addressing the demands of employees, will provide additional relief to minimise the impact of the current economic conditions. The doors of negotiations remain open and we are ready to work with our colleagues in labour to look at ways to improve the overall value proposition to our employees.”
SARS appealed to labour to remain peaceful in their protest and to respect picketing rules as specified in the CCMA Picketing Rules issued.