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South African : Civil servants prepare for nationwide strike

Daily Dispatch, 23 July 2010

THOUSANDS of civil servants in the Eastern Cape are bracing themselves for an indefinite nationwide strike next week.

The Public Servants’ Association (PSA) together with other unions such as the SA Democratic Nurses’ Union (Denosa), National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), the Police and Prisoners’ Civil Rights Union (Popcru), and the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) have all vowed to down tools on Thursday, July 29 if government does not budge on its wage offer.

But Department of Public Service and Administration spokesperson Dumisani Nkwamba said strike action could be averted.

The threat of strike action comes after negotiations between the unions and the State deadlocked.

The labour unions rejected government’s wage increase offer of 6.5 percent.

“We are ready to go on strike,” said Eastern Cape PSA provincial manager Elliot Mkuzo yesterday.

The union represents 27000 members in the province.

“A huge effect will prevail in the sense that all members, excluding essential services, will go on strike.”

Mkuzo added that essential services such as nurses and doctors will not down tools completely, but support services will be on a go- slow and this will result in a backlog.

Provincial SAPS spokesperson Captain Ernest Sigobe said because the police are an essential service, they will not go on strike.

“Work will continue as normal. We will continue serving our people. There is no way we will engage in this activity. We are here to serve and protect.”

Eastern Cape Department of Health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo reiterated this sentiment, saying that “all health workers must understand that they provide an essential service. I need to emphasise that all staff working for the Department of Health cannot go on strike”.

But Denosa provincial secretary Koliswa Tota chuckled at Kupelo’s comments, saying “if they do not give what is owed to nurses, then nurses have a right to strike just like any other employee”.

Tota added that nurses in the Eastern Cape may start picketing as early as Monday.

Eastern Cape representatives of Popru and Sadtu both said that a decision regarding the strike action has not yet been made and that the unions will only respond once a national directive has been given.

The unions have about 21000 and 51000 members in the Eastern Cape respectively.

Nationally, the PSA represents close to 180000 civil servants. PSA national spokesperson Manie de Clercq said that ballots were taken in all nine provinces and that 80percent of all its members voted in support of a strike.

“All provinces are on board. The members have rejected the offer. The Home Affairs, immigration offices and deeds offices – registering of properties – will come to a standstill,” said de Clercq.

Nkwamba, however, yesterday told the Dispatch that the “PSA has pre-maturely opted to strike”.

“There are processes in place and such processes need to be followed. Minister Baloyi met today (Thursday) with Cosatu and the labour caucuses and will announce next week the plans moving forward,” he said.

But De Clercq added that the unions are still prepared to meet with government.

From source COSATU

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