The Independent Labour Caucus (ILC) has declared a wage dispute with the state after public sector pay talks broke down, the caucus said on Thursday.
The government terminated collective bargaining within the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) on Wednesday, the ILC said in a statement.
The ILC represents 11 public service worker unions at the PSCBC.
"The state converted the present working document to an agreement, terminated negotiations, and signed the agreement," the caucus said.
The agreement would then be tendered by the state in the hope the majority of union members would sign it.
The ILC said it was close to tabling a settlement that would have secured an agreement, but the opportunity was lost due to the way proceedings were organised.
"It is incomprehensible why the state as employer has embarked on this irresponsible route," the caucus said.
The ILC-aligned Public Servants Association (PSA) said earlier on Thursday that talks deadlocked in May, with labour demanding an eight percent increase versus the state's offer of a 6.5 percent rise over three years.
Labour also demanded the current R800 housing allowance be increased to R1000, while the state intended replacing the housing allowance with a housing scheme, PSA general manager Danny Adonis said.
After more PSCBC meetings, the state made its final offer on Wednesday for the 2012/2013 financial year, which workers rejected, he said.
"The dispute will be resolved in terms of the PSCBC's dispute resolution procedures."
The state and labour had 30 days to resolve the dispute and if no resolution was reached, the PSA would not prevent its members from going on strike, he said.
As far as the government was concerned, negotiations had not been broken off, department of public service and administration spokesman Dumisani Nkwamba said.
The government had tabled its settlement offer at 6.5 percent and a 1.5 percent increase for all public service employees, depending on performance, and a R900 housing allowance, he said.
"The negotiations have not been broken off, and therefore unions have been given 21 days to consider the offer and consult their members, and effectively respond to the government's offer."
The government was operating within the parameters of the PSCBC, Nkwamba said.