CWU officials from left: Deputy general secretary Thabo Mogalane, president Clyde Mervin and secretary Aubrey Tshabalala Photo: Siphelele Dludla/ANA

Johannesburg  - The Communication Workers Union (CWU) said on Thursday that it had abandoned a planned strike at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) because of "legal technicalities" that needed to be ironed out.

This comes as hundreds of workers affiliated to the Broadcasting, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers Union (Bemawu) on Thursday embarked on a strike at the SABC as wage negotiations between the public broadcaster and two trade unions reached deadlock. 

The 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.

CWU general secretary Aubrey Tshabalala said the SABC had written a letter to the unions in which it raised a number of legal technicalities in relations to that 48-hour notice to strike, and threatened to approach the Labour Court for an interdict against the strike.

"After consultation with or legal advisers, we then withdrew the notice to strike with the intention to address those legal technicalities and serve the company should we fail to reach an agreement on the said demands," Tshabalala said. 

"We further confirm that organised labour met with the SABC management yesterday as proposed and the meeting could not conclude, and it has resumed this morning at 9am. We are still calling all our members at SABC to be combat ready should negotiations fail." 

Both CWU and Bemawu are demanding, among others, a salary increase of between 10 and 15 percent for workers across the board, backdated to April 2017, but the SABC says it cannot move from its "zero percent offer".

Also read: SABC spokesperson says striking workers will not get paid

The CWU also wants a housing allowance of R2 500 a month to be collapsed into salaries, cellphone allowances, family responsibility leave per child, a R4,000 car allowance, and that the SABC management "be trimmed". 

The broadcaster says it is going through a financial crisis and has applied for a government guarantee in a bid to meet the financial stability of the corporation.

"As organised labour, we reiterate our position that the zero percent is not acceptable, given the fact that every year consumables increase in price. The acceptance of this will be tantamount to capitulating to a reversal of gains made in substantive negotiations of previous financial years," Tshabalala said.