COSATU general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has sharply criticised Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan's budget statement, in particular the wage restraint for public sector workers.
"Government is trying to enforce an un-negotiated wage policy as part of its New Growth Path policy. The problem with that is that it can enforce one-sided wage moderation because it has instruments to push it down the throats of the public sector workers.
"Private sector bosses will read this as a signal to follow suit. So at the end there will be wage moderation for the working class but government has no instrument to enforce a wage moderation on company CEOs who earn obscene salaries and bonuses," Vavi said.
Cope has called on government officials to lead by example and cut down on spending public coffers.
"This figure is higher than it has ever been. In 2012 it will amount to more than R1-trillion. The Presidency and ministries must lead the way on this.
"It is cooling down time and time to save. Ministers must spend less on luxurious hotels and cars.
"We must address the 'reckless spending' perception created by departments and ministers. It is crucial that we enter into 'savings mode'," it said.
The party said Gordhan should come out stronger on these issues.
Civil advocacy group Black Sash said the government must include a "social justice" clause in its tenders to ensure that those awarded such tenders do indeed create jobs.
It said the move would go a long way in ensuring that government tenders do not only enrich an elite few.
"The Black Sash would like to see more guarantees that this spend will reach vulnerable households through decent work," said advocacy officer Phelisa Nkomo.