SABC employees embarked on strike on Thursday morning to press for salary hikes. Picture: Getrude Makhafola/ANA

Johannesburg - Striking South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) employees at the Auckland Park head offices on Thursday continued their strike over salary increases after management issued an internal memo saying their actions were illegal. 

The letter, labelled as an urgent notice, to employees on Thursday, stated that the strike led by the Broadcasting, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers Union (Bemawu) was illegal because the union did not ''follow proper procedures.'' 

''The SABC management is concerned that you have all chosen to participate in an unprotected strike action led by Bemawu. Bemawu was not party to conciliation proceedings which were scheduled for 18 October 2017 and neither did Bemawu lodge an application to be joined as a party in those proceeding,'' read the letter issued by the public broadcaster's communication division. 

Rival union, Communication Workers Union (CWU) announced on Thursday that it had withdrawn from the SABC strike due to legal technicalities ''that need to be ironed". 

In the letter to staff, CWU ''unconditionally'' withdrew on 31 October. 

Bemawu hit back at SABC, denying claims that the strike was illegal. The union posted a letter from the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) on its website informing members that the labour action was legal. 

''Bemawu vehemently denies this. We are in possession of a letter from the CCMA confirming our strike is protected and we may proceed with a strike. The strike is not only about a salary increase ... it also in support of a public broadcaster free of political interference,'' the union said. 

The union demanded a 10 percent salary hike, which management at the cash-strapped public broadcaster said was not affordable. The increment was due in April. 

Unions issued the SABC with a 48-hour strike notice on Monday after the broadcaster proposed to re-open the negotiations on Wednesday following several back-and-forth meetings.