Pretoria - Strikes by unions are to be expected in a democratic country and should not be viewed as being problematic, President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday.
Zuma told reporters at the Union Buildings in Pretoria that government was not taking sides between competing unions in the mining sector, the National Union of Mineworkers and Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).
"We are not taking sides at all. That is one element that (tends) to portray the mining industry as if there are big problems in the mining sector.
"Strikes are a normal thing in a democratic country. It is only in undemocratic countries where there are no strikes," he said.
"I don’t think we should take strikes as a problem because workers in democratic countries are allowed by law, by the constitution to go on strike."
He said the fact that the Congress of SA Trade Unions was in an alliance with the African National Congress did not mean that the government would fail to deal with things "properly and fairly without choosing political friends or comrades".
"We are engaging Amcu, particularly because we believe there is an established labour framework in the country which has made unions over the year to be able to interact with management."
Rivalry between Cosatu-affiliated NUM and Amcu has caused tensions in the mining industry and led to confrontations between members.
Zuma said Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe has been tasked together with other ministers to engage both unions and mining companies in finding a solution for the sector.
He condemned the growing trend of workers embarking on illegal strikes in the mining sector.
"You cannot allow the unions for an example to engage on wildcat strikes... We appreciate for an example that Amcu may be a new union that is trying to grapple with these issues. That is why we are engaging them," he said.
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