Cosatu: No talks between govt and unions

There have been no new wage talks between public-service unions and the government, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said on Friday.

“We have not had a meeting,” said spokesperson Mugwena Maluleke, responding to reports of secret talks on Thursday night between unions and Public Service and Administration Minister Richard Baloyi.

Maluleke said he was trying to trace the source of the rumours.

“I can speak on behalf of Cosatu that there was no meeting,” Maluleke said.

Asked if any meetings had been arranged, he replied: “We are hoping to hear from the government. Our memoranda that we presented
at marches yesterday [Thursday] gave the government 24-hours to respond. We are ready to talk.”

Government spokesperson Themba Maseko said he could not give out any new information. “There is no news yet,” he said at noon on Friday.

Independent Labour Caucus (ILC) spokesperson Chris Klopper said both the ILC and Cosatu have requested a meeting with the minister of public service and administration, and that “it is time that he takes leadership and time that he takes responsibility”.

Klopper said they have continually advised members in essential services to be extremely cautious when they participate in any type of industrial action.

‘Time to do the right thing’
“If they want to picket, they must rather do it while they are on leave. Our advice has been to refrain from striking indefinitely. If they participate they must not make themselves guilty of intimidation and violence.

“Workers are supposed to be at work and what we are saying is that it is time to end the dispute. It’s time to do the right thing,” said Klopper.

The ILC will meet on Monday morning to discuss the way forward and will also ask for a meeting with Cosatu to decide what to do.

About 1,3-million public servants, both from Cosatu and the Independent Labour Caucus, entered a tenth day of striking on Friday to push for an 8,6% salary increase and R1 000 monthly housing allowance.

Later on Friday, Cosatu provincial secretary Dumisani Dakile said Cosatu affiliates intended embarking on a strike in solidarity with public servants on Thursday and would bring Gauteng’s economy “to a standstill”.

He said striking unions would target the department of finance, the SA Reserve Bank, the department of housing, Business Unity SA and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

During a briefing in Johannesburg, Cosatu said it was very concerned about the impact the current strike action had on the poor communities and the working class.

“We believe that government should take full responsibility for this state of affairs,” said Dakile.

Health institutions have been heavily affected due to the strike and demonstrated a serious need for the introduction of national health insurance.

Deaths are ‘daily occurrences’
Cosatu noted the deaths in hospitals reported by hospital chief executive officers and government officials and said “they report these deaths as if before the strikes there had never been people dying in hospitals”.

Dakile called the deaths “daily occurrences” and demanded the provincial minister of health provide the number of deaths that took place in hospitals during 2008 and 2009 because no strike took place during this period.

Dakile also called upon government to “desist from grandstanding by visiting hospitals and becoming scab labour as such does not help or assist the situation”.

The collapse of the education system and the postponement of preliminary exams would cause matric results in 2010 to be worse than those of 2009, Cosatu said.

The marks would be made worse due to the fact that schools closed for a month to “satisfy the imperialist agenda of Fifa”.

According to Dakile, the state use the courts to “frustrate and demoralise” members of Cosatu’s public-sector unions to crush the strike, and in Cosatu’s opinion it has not worked so far.

“We believe that such tactics do not help the situation at all and will not resolve the strike”.

Cosatu announced that the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) has issued a notice for its members to participate in the strike.

Dakile commented on the rise of state brutality that has taken place within the SAPS and metro police in what he called “militarisation of the police force”.

Dakile reiterated that the unions wanted issues of health, education, unemployment, corruption and inequality to remain on the agenda beyond the strike. – Sapa

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