Unions mull over public workers strike

2010-07-26 11:52

Johannesburg - Representatives of public sector unions affiliated to the Congress of SA Trade Unions were still finalising their decision on whether to join a nationwide pay strike, a Cosatu spokesperson said on Monday.

They planned to meet on Tuesday to consolidate the complicated process of gathering feedback, better known as mandates, from all their public service union affiliates, said Mugwena Maluleka.

The Cosatu unions represent 56% of unionised employees in the public service.

"We will be in a position to pronounce on their decision on Wednesday," said Maluleka, but added that informal feedback was leaning towards rejection of the 6.5% increase and the proposals on housing and medical aid.

Some of the unions affiliated to Cosatu include the SA Municipal Workers' Union, the Democratic Nurses Association and the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union.

The Public Servants Association (PSA) has already been given the go-ahead for a strike from this Thursday by its members, who number about 210 000.

The National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (Nupsaw) said it had also been given permission to strike from Monday August 1.

The PSA and Nupsaw form part of the Independent Labour Caucus (ILC), which is politically non-aligned and represents about 40% of unionised public servants.

ILC spokesperson Chris Klopper said they were still waiting for "one or two" other unions within the ILC to tell them what they planned to do.

Nupsaw warned that if the strike went ahead, it would "bring the whole public service industry to a standstill, involving teachers, nurses, police and the rest of the state workers".

Meanwhile, a meeting between the unions and public service ministry was diarised for noon on Thursday, when a new offer could be made.

The unions would then meet with their bargaining council at 14:00 to discuss whether to accept that offer. The Cosatu unions and the ILC represent about 1.3 million public service employees.

They were aiming for an 8.6% pay increase with a housing allowance increase from R500 to R1000.

They justify it by saying that regardless of relatively low inflation figures, workers were not coping with rising "real" costs of living, such as electricity tariff increases.

- Sapa