14 July 2009

South Africa: World Cup Workers Set to Go Back on the Job

Johannesburg — THE construction strike that has brought work on 2010 sites to a halt for a week could end today, after the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said yesterday most of its members had conditionally accepted a new pay offer.

The SA Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors (Safcec) had made an 11,5% wage offer.

NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said most of its 50000 members favoured accepting the offer on condition that issues in last week's framework agreement were addressed.

The Building Construction and Allied Workers' Union (BCAWU), with about 20000 workers, said its members rejected the 11,5% offer, and would accept only 12%.

The unions and Safcec hold make-or-break talks today to end the strike threatening completion deadlines for 2010 stadiums.

Agreement was reached last week after intervention by Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana and the local organising committee (LOC) of the 2010 Soccer World Cup. Unions got feedback from members at the weekend.

The workers were insisting on 13% and Safcec on 10,4% until Mdladlana and LOC chairman Irvin Khoza pressured them to reach agreement.

"A majority of our workers indicated a willingness to accept the framework provided certain issues have been resolved," Seshoka said.

"The ball will be in the employers' court when we meet."

While he could not confirm it, is understood workers want 12% and the scrapping of a clause in the framework agreement to ensure that workers do not go on strike in future. BCAWU spokesman Narius Moloto said: "We will go to (the) meeting insisting on 12%.

"Surely half a percentage point cannot lead companies to bankruptcy.

"We are confident that employers will not want to protract the strike just because of that."

The strike raised concern about whether SA will be ready to host the Cup next year. But Safcec spokesman Schalk Ackerman said: "We are positive that the process will be concluded by Monday as we intend to meet on Tuesday to finalise the agreement."

"We are looking forward to Tuesday's finalisation and trust that these stakeholders, and indeed the whole of SA, will not be disappointed with the response from the unions," Ackerman said.

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