Cosatu: Strike over, but still no deal

The Congress of South African Trade Unions on Wednesday announced that the public sector strike was over, even though no deal had been signed with the government.

At a press conference on Wednesday evening in Centurion, National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) president Michael Makwayiba said that seven of the eight Cosatu unions had accepted the government’s offer of a 7,5% wage increase and an R800 housing allowance.

“Today I think is the final closure of the strike. We do think that at the end of the day we will reach the 50%,” he said.

Shortly before the conference, Independent Labour Caucus (ILC) spokesperson Chris Klopper said that one of the ILC unions had accepted the offer, bringing the total to about 45% of workers accepting it.

He said that by next Tuesday he believed that another 36% of the ILC union leadership would have received a mandate from their members.

Protracted strike
Makwayiba said he did not believe the government would now withdraw its offer until Tuesday.

“We must appreciate the strike this year was a long protracted strike. We had to be sure that we reach every union,” said Makwayiba.

The unions had asked for extra time to consider government’s final offer, after which they would come back formally with a response.

The unions suspended their four week strike early in September to allow union members time to consider the government’s offer.

Meanwhile government has welcomed the announcement.

“We welcome the announcement by the unions that they’ve officially called off the strike, which is good news for all South Africans,” government spokesperson Themba Maseko told a media briefing after Cabinet’s regular Wednesday meeting.

No break-down
He did not see any possibility of the state not implementing the 7,5 percent and R800 monthly housing allowance offer.

“Government’s view is that the current phase needs to be concluded. You can’t continue negotiating forever.

“We believe this current phase needs to be concluded so that we can begin to discuss all the other outstanding issues that were on the table.

“In contrast to what is out there in the public arena, we believe that relations between government and the unions have not totally broken down.

“There is still scope for sober discussions to take place between the state and the union negotiators.”

As soon as the government got feedback from the unions, a decision would be made as to what would happen next.

“[But], we expect the offer will be implemented within a matter of days,” he said.—Sapa

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