Millions of workers expected to take part in national strike

NOT BUDDING: Johannesburg supreme court staff get vocal with their wage demands. Pic. Elvis Ntombela. 30/05/07. © Sunday World.
NOT BUDDING: Johannesburg supreme court staff get vocal with their wage demands. Pic. Elvis Ntombela. 30/05/07. © Sunday World.

Kingdom Mabuza and Waghied Misbach

Kingdom Mabuza and Waghied Misbach

Millions of public servants, including teachers, nurses and government employees, are expected to take to the streets throughout the country today.

This follows the deadlock in wage negotiations between the government and public sector unions.

Millions of students at public schools were given notices as early as Wednesday saying there would be no schooling today and possibly none on Monday as well.

Yesterday, Fikile Majola, the spokesman for the National Education and Health Workers Union, said nurses would take part in the strike and only "very ill people and the wounded'' would be attended to.

"People suffering from flu should not bother to go to public hospitals because they will not be attended to," Majola said.

Public Service Association spokesman Mannie de Cercq also said people should not bother going to government offices "because there will be no staff".

Police and Prison Civil Rights Union spokesman Pat Ntsobi said their members would report for work at police stations but would "work to rule and make no effort to provide any extra services".

South African Police Union spokesman Barries Machakela said their members would take part in marches and pickets only when they were off-duty, on leave or not in uniform.

The crippling strike comes amid accusations that Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi had lied to both parliament and the public on Wednesday by claiming there was an agreement to continue with wage talks to avert the strike because the government had tabled a new offer.

At a press conference in Centurion yesterday the unions denied knowledge of a new offer.

"There is no offer on the table and the parties remain apart," the unions said.

"Our mandate remains for a 12percent increase plus improvements in benefits."

Thulas Nxesi, the general secretary of the South African Democratic Teachers' Union, said: "What the minister said raised the level of anger among union members. That is part of propaganda meant to misinform and confuse the public."

Yesterday government spokesman Themba Maseko said the 6percent salary increase offered by the government should be seen in the context of many other benefits already available to workers, including leave and overtime pay.

Maseko added that the government was taking measures to ensure that teaching took place as schools shut down because of teachers joining the strike.

He said skeleton staff would be used to ensure that at least some teaching took place.

He also called on strikers to ensure that violence did not take place.

The government will also deploy monitors across the country to ensure pupils do not loiter and get into trouble.

Cabinet has also slammed protesting union workers for making personal attacks on Fraser-Moleketi and allegedly insulting her mother on their posters when they marched to hand over a memorandum to her in Pretoria last week.

However, Cosatu national spokesman Patrick Craven said the offending posters were not being made by Cosatu members.

"We do not support personal attacks. We want to stick to the issues," Craven told Sowetan yesterday.