/ 24 August 2010

Cosatu calls on workers to intensify strike action

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has threatened a total shutdown of the economy with a secondary strike if the government fails to settle its dispute with public-service workers by next Thursday.

“We call on all workers to intensify their action. Every Cosatu-affiliated union must on August 26 submit notice to their employers to embark on a secondary strike,” general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said on Tuesday, referring to a seven-day notice period

“So by next Thursday if the current strike is not resolved, the entire economy of South Africa will be shut down.”

Vavi also noted the government’s comments on the 8,5% wage offer.

Until Monday, the government said it was offering a 7% increase, but government spokesperson Themba Maseko told reporters this was in “real terms” actually 8,5% — a mere tenth of a percent short of what unions wanted. This was because the increase offer was bolstered by a 1,5% pay progression.

Vavi said the government knew the arithmetic was misleading and an attempt to confuse the public.

“No 8,5% wage offer was tabled. The government has been negotiating with the media rather than unions,” he said.

“This is pure misinformation aimed at confusing the public.”

The federation urged employers to refrain from confusing the public and stressed that workers were not deterred from their 8,6%.

Babies left unattended
Meanwhile, at least 53 premature babies were left unattended in some Gauteng hospitals during the public-sector strike on Monday, Premier Nomvula Mokonyane told the provincial legislature on Tuesday.

“Yesterday[Monday] when I visited some of the hospitals that were severely affected by the strike I was told shocking stories of 53 premature babies who were left unattended when striking workers forced nursing staff to leave their posts,” she said.

“Some of the babies were literally locked in the wards with no one bothering to make alternative arrangements for their care.”

Mokonyane said while she understood that workers had a right to strike, it was wrong of them to disrespect the rights of babies.

“We all respect the right for workers to strike but they must also respect the Constitutional right for these babies to live.”

She said government was extremely grateful and thankful for the support it received.

“The government is very heartened by the volunteers, including professionals who selflessly offered their services to care for those in need when the striking government workers abandoned their posts.

“From the bottom of our hearts we say thank you for what you are doing to help us through this difficult period. We also wish to thank the workers who risked their lives to report for duty and care for the public.”

She also thanked private hospitals for accommodating babies.

Mokonyane said it was “unfortunate” that some protesters resorted to intimidation and put the lives of others in “serious danger”. — Sapa