The country's prisons are likely to face the "mother of all strikes" unless members of the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union are given "an increase promised in 2007".
Popcru president Zizamele Cebekhulu said yesterday that the union's decision to go on strike came after a deadlock in negotiations with the Department of Correctional Services over the Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD).
The OSD are revised salary structures that are unique to each identified occupation in the public service. Currently, prison warders at entry level earn about R3900, and if the OSD is implemented they will earn R4800 a month.
"We have sought a number of interventions but there is no progress because of the indifferent attitude of the employer.
"We started negotiations in 2007, and the implementation date was supposed to be July 1 2008," Cebekhulu said.
He blamed the Department of Public Service and Administration for the delay, saying it had come up with "crazy formulas" that could not beimplemented.
He said both departments had until May 22 to conclude the OSD. "Otherwise, on May 25 we are going to embark on strike," he said.
Popcru spokesperson Benzi Ka-Soko said: "Even essential services workers would down tools to show the employer the seriousness of the issue."
He said the union welcomed the appointment of Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula as Minister of Correctional Services.
"We hope she is open-minded because we are tired of fighting," Ka-Soko said.