By NBF News

South Africa's government has offered new enticements to 1.3 million state workers to accept a wage offer and formally end a strike which they suspended last week, union officials said on Tuesday.

The government has not changed its basic offer but would try to lessen the pain of lost wages felt by striking workers, Reuters reports.

'The employer has agreed to spread out the 'no work, no pay' principle over three months and this will likely convince members to accept the deal,' said Manie de Clercq, spokesman for the Public Servants Association.

'Unions have not signed the deal yet but many are close to finalising consultations with their members and we are likely to have a settlement,' he told Reuters.

Last week, the state employees suspended their nearly month-long strike for 21 days and returned to work to consider the government's offer of a 7.5 per cent pay raise and 800 rand a month for housing.

Workers are due to suffer big deductions to their pay this month to account for days they did not work.

But the government has suggested making smaller deductions instead, spread over three months' pay cheques.

Union leaders have already agreed to the government's pay offer but have had problems persuading their members to sign off on the deal.

Any offer to spread the pain of lost wages would help the deal to win acceptance, union officials said.

'It's not easy but we are doing our best to make workers see that the government cannot afford to raise the offer.

This is as good as it is going to get,' said one union official, who did not want to be named.

Any wage rise deal with swell state spending and put pressure on the government to consider tax increases.

Economists predicted that the labour action had so far cost the economy about one billion rand $140m, a day and dampened sentiment about growth prospects for an economy already lagging behind other emerging markets.

The strike strained relations between President Jacob Zuma and the largest union federation, COSATU, which helped his rise to power. They will try to patch things up at a high-level meeting to be held in the next two months.

The public sector strike cost an estimated 12 million worker days, bringing the total days lost to strikes this year to 13.25 million, more than four times the number in 2009, said analyst Jackie Kelly at labour consultancy Andrew Levy and Associates.