Security guard employers were reporting little absenteeism in Johannesburg and the East and West Rand on Thursday, the SA National Security Employers Association (Sansea) said.

Sansea spokesperson Steve Friswel said his organisation's members were generally not too badly affected in these areas and attendance was 100 percent in some cases.

In the Cape and Pretoria, however, some companies had reported 80 percent absenteeism.

Friswel said intimidation was also on the increase in both centres, with some uniformed guards dragged from their workplace and forced to participate in a march in Pretoria. There was also a report of a guard stripped of his uniform in the Cape and beaten.

Sansea represents about 110 security companies that employ between 50 000 and 60 000 guards.

There are about 283 700 registered guards in South Africa, working for 4 200 registered businesses. Around 90 000 are unionised.

Sansea is one of five employer associations affected by a two-day strike that began in six provinces on Thursday.

SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) security industry co-ordinator Jackson Simon said he estimated 90 000 security guards from 13 unions would "down booms and batons".

The figure is down from the 150 000 mooted on Wednesday. Simon said about 50 000 marchers were in the streets of Pretoria at lunch on Thursday.

He had earlier expected about 20 000 marchers. Police, however, put the figure at 10 000.

At 1.30pm they were moving along Beatrix Street to deliver a memorandum to the Private Security Regulatory Authority.

Memorandums have already been delivered to the departments of labour and safety and security.

The unions involved are Satawu, the National Security and Unqualified Workers Union, the Professional Transport Workers Union of South Africa, the Security Officer Civil Rights and Allied Workers Union, the SA Private Security Workers Union, the SA Cleaning, Security and Allied Workers Union, the United Private Sector Workers Union, the Protectors Workers Union, the Food, Cleaning and Security Workers Union and the SA National Security Officers' Forum.

Satawu represents about 40 000 guards and the National Security and Unqualified Workers Union about 13 000. The Satawu figure has been verified by the Department of Labour.

The employer organisations involved are Sansea, the Security Services Employers Organisation, the Western Cape Security Association, the Northern Province Security Association, and the SA Intruders Democratic Security Association.

The strike is for higher wages and better working conditions --

including the right to lunch breaks and using a toilet without being charged for deserting a position of duty.

"This strike is about wages and some other aspects of being a human being," the National Security and Unqualified Workers Union's Moses Memela said at a press briefing on the action in Johannesburg.

The industrial action in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, the North West, the Free State, Western Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal follows failed wage negotiations which started in October last year. Unions are demanding an 11 percent across-the-board increase and an additional four percent increase for the lowest paid workers.

Guards in the Northern and Eastern Cape provinces will strike on Monday and Tuesday, with KZN workers joining for a repeat strike.

Should a settlement not be reached by then, workers will strike indefinitely from April 3.

Labour minister Membathisi Mdladlana has urged the parties involved to return to talking and "seek an amicable solution to this matter".

Commenting on the looming strike, Mdladlana expressed concern about the failure by the parties to reach consensus.

"It is regrettable that this dispute had to deteriorate to an industrial action despite months of negotiations. I urge both parties to reconsider their stance as the strike will not be in the best interests of either party," he said. - Sapa