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THE WORLD CUP organising committee will "engage" construction industry trade unions about a looming strike over wages, it said in Johannesburg yesterday.

THE WORLD CUP organising committee will "engage" construction industry trade unions about a looming strike over wages, it said in Johannesburg yesterday.

The organising committee has promised Fifa the stadiums to be used for the World Cup would be finished "six months" before the tournament starts on June 11 2010, organising committee chairperson Irvin Khoza said.

A strike could put paid to that, he said.

At this stage, though, all the committee knew of the impending industrial action was that the media was reporting that a major strike was expected.

"While we acknowledge and accept and recognise the democratic right (of workers to strike), there are issues we want to understand as a board," said Khoza.

It was important that it kept itself informed because it needed to understand the possible impact of a strike. It wanted to hear both sides, Khoza said.

"This matter is now referred to the (executive committee) of the board to engage the respective unions," he said.

He stressed that the board had no intention of interfering with workers' right to strike. It was a right they were constitutionally guaranteed and it was important "to observe and respect that right".

A total of 10 stadiums will be used in the tournament. Five are already operational, including the newly-built stadium at Nelson Mandela Bay in Port Elizabeth.

Another five are still under construction: Soccer City in Johannesburg and the stadiums in Durban and Cape Town are undergoing a major upgrade; and two stadiums are being built from scratch in Polokwane and Nelspruit. It is these which will be affected if there is a strike.

Construction workers plan to down tools at the World Cup sites on Wednesday after wage negotiations deadlocked a week ago.

The Building Construction and Allied Workers' Union has served notice of strike action.

It is asking for a 13percent wage increase. Employers are offering 10percent. The union also wants formal skills, and training and development programmes for workers and a retirement fund set up in the industry.

The SA Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors has indicated that it intends applying for an "interdict to stop the strike" on the grounds that it is premature.

Apart from stadiums, the strike could affect the King Shaka International Airport, the Kusile project, Eskom's Medupi project, the Coega project, Livingston Hospital and the Gautrain.

Speaking after the organising committee's post-Confederations Cup board meeting Khoza, citing France as an example when it experienced a transport strike before its soccer World Cup, said it was "not unusual" to see unions striking just before major events. - Sapa


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