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Public service unions accept offer

Oct 13 2010 17:58 AP & Sapa

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Johannesburg - Public sector unions have accepted the government's wage offer after months of intense negotiations and a debilitating three-week strike by civil servants.
 
Seven of eight trade unions agreed Wednesday to accept a 7.5% pay raise and a R800 monthly housing allowance.

The one holdout, the teachers' union, said the raise wasn't enough but agreed to the terms anyhow.
 
Teachers' union president Thobile Ntola says the union respects the union bloc's decision but believes teachers should earn more.
 
The strike crippled not only schools but also public hospitals, and slowed work at the country's courts, passport offices and morgues.
 
The unions suspended their strike last month to consider the government's offer.

The Congress of SA Trade Unions has also announced that the public sector strike was over, even though no deal had been signed with the government.

At a press conference on Wednesday evening in Centurion, National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) president Michael Makwayiba said that seven of the eight Cosatu unions had accepted the government's offer of a 7.5% wage increase and an R800 housing allowance.

“Today I think is the final closure of the strike. We do think that at the end of the day we will reach the 50%,” he said.

Shortly before the conference, Independent Labour Caucus (ILC) spokesman Chris Klopper said that one of the ILC unions had accepted the offer, bringing the total to about 45% workers accepting it.

He said that by next Tuesday he believed that another 36% of the ILC union leadership would have received a mandate from their members.

Makwayiba said he did not believe the government would now withdraw its offer until Tuesday.

“We must appreciate the strike this year was a long protracted strike. We had to be sure that we reach every union,” said Makwayiba.

The unions had asked for extra time to consider government's final offer, after which they would come back formally with a response.

The unions suspended their four week strike early in September to allow union members time to consider the government's offer.

The cabinet has also welcomed public sector unions officially calling off their strike, and urged them to accept the final wage offer made by the government.

"We welcome the announcement by the unions that they've officially called off the strike, which is good news for all South Africans," government spokesperson Themba Maseko told a media briefing after cabinet's regular meeting.

"We believe this current phase needs to be concluded so that we can begin to discuss all the other outstanding issues that were on the table.

"In contrast to what is out there in the public arena, we believe that relations between government and the unions have not totally broken down. There is still scope for sober discussions to take place between the state and the union negotiators," he said.

As soon as the government receives feedback from the unions, a decision would be made as to what would happen next.

"(But) we expect the offer will be implemented within a matter of days," he said.


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