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No end in sight for barrage of strikes

Aug 26 2013 23:25 Sapa
 Workers affiliated to the SA Transport and Allied

Workers affiliated to the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union embark on a pay strike outside OR Tambo International Airport. (Werner Beukes, Sapa)

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Johannesburg - Countrywide strikes in vital sectors of the economy were set to continue into the week, trade union leaders said on Monday afternoon.

No end was in sight for labour action by the SA Transport and Allied Workers' Union (Satawu) at SA Airways (SAA), and by National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) members in the construction sector.

In the motor industry, National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) members were discussing a new pay offer, but said their strike would continue at least until Wednesday.

SAA strike

SAA technical staff affiliated to Satawu downed tools, demanding a 12% wage increase.

Union spokesperson Vincent Masoga said the strike would continue indefinitely, as the union was not prepared to accept the tabled offer of 6.5%. He said the talks were being conducted in a hostile environment.

"Management at SAA, in general, are highly unreasonable and that is why we will not back down," Masoga said.

SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali declined to comment on the wage negotiations, but said numerous flights had taken off and landed at the airport.

Construction sector

In the construction sector, the SA Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors (Safcec), an employer organisation, described trade unions' pay demands as unreasonable.

The NUM claimed that about 90 000 of its members in the construction sector were on strike for a 13% pay rise.

"In terms of their respective positions, parties are far apart. [We] believe that the union demands are unreasonable and unaffordable," said Safcec.

NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said workers did not report for work after negotiations with the employers reached a deadlock.

"We want a 13% wage increase for this year and a 14% increase for 2014, but the employer offered way below that," he said.

Employers tabled a 6% wage increase for 2013 and an inflation-linked increase for the next year.

Motor industry

In the motor industry, Numsa said the strike would go ahead until it received a new mandate from its striking workers.

Spokesperson Castro Ngobese said in a statement that a final decision on the matter would probably be announced on Wednesday, when the employer's offer of a 10% pay rise would be discussed at a meeting of the union's national executive council.

Gold mining

In the gold sector, trade union Solidarity remained the only union still in talks with the Chamber of Mines.

"We want to confront the chamber and appeal to them to restore the principle of collective bargaining... We want them to make us an offer that will convince our members to not go on strike," said Solidarity general secretary Gideon du Plessis, shortly before going into talks.

The NUM and Uasa have rejected the chamber's revised offer and have been issued with a certificate of non-resolution.

The NUM wants a minimum wage of R7 000 a month for surface workers and R8 000 for underground workers.

Employers in the gold sector offered to increase the basic wage for underground entry level employees to R5 300 a month, and the living-out allowance to around R1 730 a month.

Coal mining

In the coal sector, Du Plessis said the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA) would mediate negotiations over three days in September.

"The CCMA has set aside the 4th, 6th and 9th of September, for facilitation of wage talks in the coal sector," Du Plessis said.

Talks there stalled after the Chamber of Mines presented a revised offer of a seven percent wage increase, with a seven percent housing allowance increase, earlier in the month.

The NUM, Uasa, and Solidarity were expected to be part of the mediated talks.

Concerns

The strikes raised concerns at the SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci).

"[We] remain concerned that the broad base of protest activity in key economic sectors threatens to paralyse the economy and will certainly have adverse consequences for global perceptions of the South African economy, its competitiveness, as well as for employment prospects," said Sacci CEO Neren Rau.

Meanwhile, government called for non-violence during the strikes across various sectors.

"While every citizen has the constitutional right to protest, it must be done within the ambit of the law. Those that contravene the country's laws will face the full might of the law," said acting government spokesperson Phumla Williams.

"Government and the citizens of the country are urged to work together in a peaceful and stable manner to address the underlying challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality," she said.


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