Business Day (Johannesburg)

23 July 2009

South Africa: More Workers to Join Thousands On Strike

Photo: Kevin Roussel

Johannesburg — SA IS set to experience more strikes with workers protesting at Massmart Holding's retail stores tomorrow and Telkom employees threatening similar action next week.

Already thousands of employees are striking in the paper and pulp, industrial chemical, pharmaceutical, and consumer goods sectors, severely affecting operations at companies.

Although most companies have said they cannot give in to labour's demands for better wage increases due to the recession, unions are arguing that they continue to make profits and cannot justify increases that are below the inflation rate.

The South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers' Union (Saccawu) will embark on a day's protest at Makro and Massdiscounters (Game and Dion) tomorrow.

Saccawu spokesman Mike Abrahams said yesterday parties had been unable to agree on wage increases at Makro, and had an unresolved dispute with Massdiscounters over unilateral changes to terms of employment.

The union's demands include a R460 or 8,5% increase -- whichever is higher -- while the company is offering R460 across the board.

At Telkom, the Communication Workers' Union (CWU) is set to endorse a strike after its national working committee meeting tomorrow.

"Shop stewards are currently consolidating what form of action we must take. But members are eager to take up the fight," CWU general secretary Gallant Roberts said yesterday.

The CWU wants Telkom to adjust employees' salary scales and then grant a 7,5% raise on the new scales backdated to April 1. However, Telkom is offering 7,5% on the current salary scales with promises of implementing the new salary bands in October. "This means that the discriminatory salary disparity will remain unchanged and continue to disadvantage our members," Roberts said.

In response Telkom spokesman Meshack Dlamini said informal talks were taking place between the parties and formal discussions would be held within the next week or so.

Meanwhile, the Congress of South African Trade Unions has come out in support of the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers' Union's (Ceppwawu's) mass action, warning that if employers do not better their wage offer, the federation's 2-million members will come out in support of its affiliate.

Factories owned by Tiger Brands , Mondi and Sasol are being affected by the protests, Ceppwawu said. Workers are seeking wage increases of as much as 13,6%. Employers have offered between 7,5% and 8% .

Mining unions were considering an improved offer to gold mineworkers of a 10% increase for lower category employees and 9% for others made last night by Chamber of Mines gold producers after talks under the eye of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.

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