Cosatu: We’ll bring SA to its knees
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Pretoria - Pretoria’s central business district was brought to a standstill on Thursday as 11 000 public servants took to the streets. But in a week’s time the country could be hit by rolling mass action, stay-aways and civil disobedience, should a settlement not be reached by the government and public sector unions, which are demanding a 10 percent pay rise.
A strike will mean schools, hospitals and government services would work on a skeletal to a no-staff complement.
On Thursday, Cosatu public service unions vowed to bring the country to its knees, saying the government seemed to want to plunge the country into crisis.
During the march, major CBD intersections were gridlocked and frustrated motorists had to find “alternative routes”.
This situation was compounded by ongoing city council roadworks - in cases approaching two years - which have seen some streets narrowed to one lane; others have been closed off.
The pay talks at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council stalled again this week.
The government says it cannot afford more than a 5.8 percent increase, but has offered to pay the lowest-paid state-employed workers a 14 percent wage increase.
But powerful police and teachers unions want a 10 percent increase across the board and a R1 500 monthly housing allowance.
The government offer is a R1 000 housing allowance.
On Thursday, Cosatu public sector wage negotiator, Mugwena Maluleke, said unimproved working conditions could no longer be accepted, slamming the government for negotiating in bad faith including the unprecedented move to revise the government’s initial wage offer down.
“We will be left with no option but to take to the streets in protest against this intransigency and belligerent conduct against workers’ demands,” said Maluleke, who is also the general secretary of Sadtu “The state has the budget and flexibility to meet these (demands).”
Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini also accused the government of wanting a strike.
The parties have been locked in pay negotiations for seven months now, but the unions expect a revised offer to be presented at the bargaining council within the next week.
“We expect a revised offer… as soon as yesterday so that these negotiations are completed as soon as possible and the agreement must be implemented by the end of April,” Maluleke said. “We refuse to be reduced to beggars and we won’t allow the employer to impose the percentage increase on us. We warn the government that our country does not need stubbornness and the lack of decisive leadership that has been evident over the last couple of weeks.
Nehawu leader, Michael Shingange, said it was the union’s view that collective bargaining was under threat from the state. “We’ve never seen an employer revise an offer downwards. It is unprecedented. We are not a bunch of lazy public servants who don’t want to be at work.
“It is a battle we can’t win in the boardrooms, (but) we can win on the streets.”
He called on the government to change its negotiators, failing which there’d be a strike. “Our children go to public schools, use public transport and public hospitals. They all feel the impact of today’s protest. The war is still on.”