/ 15 July 2009

‘Let construction restart in earnest’

A 12% wage offer ended a week-long strike by 70 000 workers at World Cup construction sites, officials said on Wednesday.

”The employers and unions agreed on 12%,” South African Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors (Safcec) spokesperson Schalk Ackerman said.

One of the sticking points in negotiations was the employer requiring an undertaking by unions that they would not strike again before the 2010 World Cup.

But Ackerman said it was agreed that the right to further industrial action before the World Cup was ”limited but not precluded”.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) described the wage agreement as ”very good for labour”.

The agreement between NUM, the Building, Construction and Allied Workers’ Union (BCAWU) and Safcec was reached in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

It was welcomed by the 2010 Fifa World Cup local organising committee.

”The workers and employers have paved the way to the timely construction of the stadiums to be used during the World Cup next year,” said its chief executive, Danny Jordaan.

”The agreement gives practical meaning to their commitment to infrastructural development in South Africa, a key to future economic prosperity for our country and achieving sustainable peace and stability.”

About 70 000 construction workers at five of the 10 World Cup stadiums and several other key infrastructure projects downed tools on July 8 over pay.

World Cup stadiums affected by the industrial action included Moses Mabhida in Durban, Nelson Mandela in Port Elizabeth, Peter Mokaba in Polokwane, Green Point in Cape Town, Mbombela in Nelspruit and Soccer City in Johannesburg.

It also affected other projects including the King Shaka International Airport, the Kusile project, Eskom’s Medupi project, the Coega project, the Livingston Hospital and the Gautrain.

The NUM reported that 95% of the sites were hit by the strike, which threatened the completion of work on 2010 stadiums.

The Fifa deadline for the completion of all stadiums is October 15 this year.

NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said the agreement was better than expected.

”It is a very good agreement for labour. We hope our members are going to be excited.

”What we got for them was actually better than [what] they had given us a mandate for,” he said.

In a statement, Safcec said the NUM and BCAWU would call off the strike after a signing session at noon at the offices of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration in Johannesburg.

The NUM had initially demanded a wage increase of 13% and the employer body offered 10,4%. Safcec later increased its offer to 11,5%.

Construction workers were expected to return to work at 7am on Thursday.

”Let the construction restart in earnest. We cannot wait for June 11, 2010 when the Fifa World Cup kicks off,” Jordaan said.

‘Friends of football’
Meanwhile, Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said on Wednesday that the workers who downed tools never wanted to disrupt the completion of 2010 soccer stadiums.

”They never wanted to undermine the country’s World Cup or the people of South Africa,” he said.

”We, more than anybody, are friends of football … The workers just wanted the benefits of 2010 to be shared with everybody, not only the employers,” he said.

Vavi said he was ”pleased” that an agreement had been reached between the employers and the workers.

”I want to thank all those whole played a role in the facilitation of discussions between the two parties concerned.”

He said the resolution also proved how critical some institutions were.

”Again the CCMA has proven how critical it is to this country,” said Vavi.

”And we are happy that there were no major disruptions during the strike action.” — Sapa