All systems go for national strike

2010-08-09 14:11

Cape Town - Some 1.3 million public servants affiliated to the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the Independent Labour Caucus (ILC) will down tools on Tuesday.

The unions last week rejected government's revised wage offer of a 7% increase and a R630 housing allowance, as well as a 1.5% fixed pay progression.

They are aiming for an 8.6% wage increase and a R1 000 housing allowance, backdated to April 1.

There were no scheduled talks between government and the unions on Saturday and Sunday.

According to ILC chairperson Chris Klopper, workers were expected to return to work on Wednesday, but another strike might or might not occur.

"We will be back in negotiations on Wednesday and will give the government a chance to Sunday to see if we can reach an agreement," Klopper said.

"We will then decide on what further action we are going to take."

He said the unions declared a dispute two months ago, and by law would have been able to give notice and go on strike within seven days, but they had decided to "play the game".

"We did not exploit the World Cup as Eskom did. I'm sure if we did that we would have had an agreement by now, but we are responsible to the country," Klopper said.

On Friday, Cosatu said in a statement it was all systems ready for the "public service complete shut down" on Tuesday.

"More than 1.3 million public servants will on Tuesday take part in marches and demonstrations right through the country leading to a total shut down of the public service," the union federation said.

National marches would take place in Cape Town and Pretoria, as well as provincial marches in other cities.

Contingency plans

"The complete shutdown will take place on Tuesday... only, and the leadership will announce further actions depending on the response from the employer.

"On Tuesday the unions will demand a response within 24 hours to their demands."

While the public service unions appreciated the economic problems in the country and "have shown a lot of patience" during this year's wage negotiations, they could not meet the ever escalating fuel, electricity and service hikes.

"We demand that the employer improve the revised offer as demanded by the unions," Cosatu said.

Meanwhile, schools and hospitals have made contingency plans for the strike.

The education department has asked members of school governing bodies to supervise pupils in the absence of teachers and the health department will call on private hospitals and the military to help if necessary.

Education spokesperson Granville Whittle said departmental teams had been organised across the country to monitor levels of intimidation and adherence to strike rules, with the police on standby if needed.

"There will be huge disruption of classes, especially for matric pupils who are writing their final exams in a few months time and this will have a negative effect (on) our attempts to turn the sector around," he said.

In terms of labour law, police officers and nurses are deemed essential services and are not allowed to strike.

"If there is a strike, we will try our level best to minimise the impact," health department spokesperson Fidel Hadebe said.

Police spokesperson Vishnu Naidoo said there was no indication members would be joining the strike.

"Our members are fully aware that they are an essential service and are not allowed to strike.

"(But) there are always contingency plans in place," he said.

National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) deputy president Michael Makwayiba said the unions could not be held accountable for essential services members going on strike, as government had not yet agreed to a minimum service agreement for these employees.

Success Mataitsane, general secretary of the National Union for Public Service and Allied Workers (Nupsaw), said the unions would work on a quota system to ensure essential services continued.

"We would work on a quota with about 20% (of essential services employees) working and 80% going on strike... to ensure no lives are lost," he said.

Cosatu's affiliate unions represent about 560 000 public servants, and the ILC claims to represent 460 000 public servants not affiliated to Cosatu.

  - Sapa

  • Sage - 2010-08-09 14:42

    In the midst of the global downturn where austerity measures in many countries include freezes and cuts in public servants' salaries it is absurd that our unions are demanding increases and going on strike. In addition to the pathetic levels of service which in no way warrant any increases whatsoever, the actions of the unions and their members amount to nothing more than economic terrorism. Demand for Thatcherite style action with a view to disposing of these devious unions permanently is essential for the good of the country!

  • Clive - 2010-08-09 19:07

    Dear Sage, you clearly haven't been following the facts and figures. We've been offered a paltry R10 increase whereas the bosses are having their homes re-decorated whilst using state money to stay in a hotel at R3000 per night... and we get a R10 increase! Absurd. It's very easy to complain about poor service delivery, but in the end, the majority (I didn't say ALL, I said the majority) of public servants work really hard for what they earn.

  • Freddy - 2010-08-09 20:20

    One must understand that despite global downturn prices keep on going up. That is why wage increases are imperitive. There is no price control whatsoever. Now Sage think again. It is quite the norm for employers today to consider it's employees as colateral damage to achieve it's objectives personal & otherwise. You are no different from the rest.

  • Nate - 2010-08-09 23:35

    sadly you cant expect stupid people to do clever things....

  • Peter - 2010-08-10 01:29

    I am all for people going on strike for a better wage BUT are the majotity of people going on strike actually worth what they are earning now. There will still be a poor Matric pass rate and repeated cry's to invetigate why come Jan 2011 and a promise that it will not be alowed to happen again and repeated protest over poor service delivery even if they got 15% increases.

  • Brad - 2010-08-10 08:31

    Well said Sage! Not one of these public departments know what SERVICE means!!

  • cITTRO - 2010-08-10 12:28

    Surely the headline should be "All Systems STOP for national strike"???

  • John - 2010-08-10 13:13

    Amazing comment about keeping 20% of esential services so as not to loose lives. They loose lives even at 100% so where are we going

  • Danny - 2010-08-10 14:20

    What labour unions fail to appreciate is that there are up to 40% unemployed people in SA. They should be grateful for the jobs they have. My personal opinion - public services should be privatised.. But Government is too weak

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