end of STRIKEs

THE strikes which threatened to bring South Africa's public service to its knees could be called off.

Cosatu yesterday emerged from its meeting with the ANC and public sector Cabinet ministers confident that a solution would "soon be found" to end ongoing wage issues.

Cosatu predicted that all labour disputes between unions and the government would be resolved, with the process starting tomorrow.

Cosatu president S'dumo Dlamini told Sowetan: "We believe that from today's meeting things can turn positive and it might be the first step to ending the strikes that we have been referring to.

"After the deliberations that we have heard, an agreement was reached that we should refer to the public service coordinating bargaining council on Wednesday."

He said Cosatu was pleased that most of the ministers in the public sector cluster attended the meeting.

This was in sharp contrast to the previous government when ministers failed to show up for meetings called by Cosatu - leading to an antagonistic relationship between the labour federation and former Public Services minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi.

Dlamini said an agreement between Cosatu and the government would end the planned strikes by the prisons' civil rights union, the SA Municipal Workers Union, the South African Police Service, emergency services personnel, the military and the teachers' unions.

Last week, Cosatu secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi once again warned of a crisis in the public service, saying "the bomb is ticking all the time".

"There is a crisis in the public service and it's a crisis of confidence that public servants have on whether their issues will be addressed with the necessary speed that they demand," Vavi said.

Dlamini said Cosatu "would be prepared" to make sacrifices now that the country's economy had entered its first recession in 17 years.