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Soldiers threaten to join strike

Aug 26 2010 09:11 Sapa

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Johannesburg - Soldiers, who have been helping out at state hospitals during a crippling public service strike, threatened on Thursday to start staying away from work in a solidarity action.

"The problem is, if this problem is not solved, there's a possibility that we might be seen as scab labour," said SA National Defence Union (Sandu) spokesperson Jeff Dubazana.

"We are not going to allow our workers to be seen in that particular fashion. That is why we are planning action."

He said the union would announce on Friday if it would take part in a secondary strike.

Initially, he said Sandu members would "go on a march" or picket, but when asked if that meant they would not stay away from work, he replied: "It can be picketing for the whole day."

Dubazana said the government's "lack of leadership" was to blame for the situation.

"What the public servants are asking... it's very reasonable, what they should be asking for is 16%," he said.

The SA Security Force Union (Sasfu) made a similar statement.

Sasfu president Bhekinkosi Mvovo said the union's national executive leadership would meet on Sunday to discuss members joining the strike.

"Soldiers' social economic conditions are much worse than the teachers and nurses," Mvovo said.

"We are calling on our members not to act as scab labour during this period," he said.

Mvovo hoped the wage dispute between the government and public service unions would be resolved by the time the union meets on Sunday.

He acknowledged that a strike by soldiers would have a crippling  affect.

"It will be a big blow," Mvovo said.

A nation-wide public service strike started a week ago, causing school closures and severe disruption of state hospital services.

The SA National Defence Force has deployed about 2 400 soldiers to help out at hospitals.

The unions have demanded an 8.6% increase and a R1 000 housing allowance, while the government has offered 7% and R700, excluding a 1.5% pay progression.
 

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