Court gives go-ahead to construction strike

About 70 000 construction workers are expected to strike on Wednesday, halting work across the country, including at stadiums for the 2010 World Cup, after a court refused to ban the action.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said in statement on Monday that it had won the case against the South African Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors (Safcec), which had last week asked the court to prevent the union from striking.

“Employers must expect no mercy from us, they must deliver 13% or we will strike until 2011,” said Bhekani Ngcobo, the NUM’s negotiator at Safcec, in a statement.

World Cup organisers said last week they would meet trade union officials to try to ensure a strike does not delay completion of stadiums beyond target, but would not interfere in workers’ democratic rights to strike.

Officials have said previously that the 10 stadiums for the World Cup, half of them new, will be delivered on target by December, although there have been some reports that Green Point Stadium in Cape Town may be delayed into next year.

After the collapse of prolonged negotiations with the employers’ organisation, NUM called the strike to support its demand for a 13% wage increase. Employers have refused to go beyond 10%.

“The interdict wasn’t granted,” said Joe Campanella, spokesperson for Safcec, adding the unions and employers were in fresh talks to find a resolution but declined to say if the employer organisation would revise its offer.

Companies likely to be hit by the strike include Murray & Roberts Holdings, WBHO and Group Five.

Eskom’s 4 800MW Medupi power station could also be affected, slowing efforts to fill a chronic power shortage in the country.—Reuters

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