/ 10 July 2009

TAKE2: Why the construction strike makes me panic

I drive past the Soccer City construction site twice every weekday. I am a chief critic of the progress, or the lack thereof, that is taking place, and I enjoy being a critic.

”I don’t see what these people are doing, they will never finish in time for the World Cup,” I often say, attempting to start a conversation with a fellow travel companion in a taxi. My cynicism was consistent until about two months ago, when brown patches were being pasted on the outside of the stadium; it looked promising, different.

South Africa has recently seen strike action from people we never imagined would strike. First, some doctors put patients’ lives at risk while protesting for better salaries, and while that issue is not completely solved, there is confidence the end is in sight.

Then there has also been concern over the possibility of dead air on the public broadcaster’s channels as SABC employees gear up for a possible strike.

I have, at times, rolled my eyes at all the strike action that is taking place around us — until recently, when I drove past Soccer City, and there was no activity, and no movement of workers suspended in the air trying to patch those brown plates on to the face of the stadium.

My eye-rolling turned to panic. ”I could be right, we actually could find ourselves missing the 2010 deadline,” I thought to myself.

If the employers of the approximately 70 000 construction labourers around the country don’t grant the pay rise the workers want, then we may be in trouble.

We may face the prospect of showing ourselves unworthy of hosting the World Cup.

The South African Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors, which represents the companies, needs to come up with a better offer. The workers themselves could lower their demands and make it easier for companies to play catch-up.

I assume that most of the workers are soccer lovers, and want nothing more than to see the 2010 World Cup happen, as we all do.

I love being right, but I would really hate to be right about this. I would be devastated if two weeks from now we are still faced with striking construction workers, and 11 months down the line the stadiums are not ready for use at the World Cup.

I don’t want to be right, especially because my initial assumption of construction timelines not being met did not factor in any strikes.