TALKS between public service unions representing 14 unions and about 1,3 million state employees have deadlocked.

TALKS between public service unions representing 14 unions and about 1,3 million state employees have deadlocked.

Unions yesterday declared a dispute.

Unions affiliated to Cosatu and the Independent Labour Caucus said the dispute had been declared "as a result of the employer's intransigence and inability to meet the demands of labour".

South African Police Union spokesperson Oscar Skommere said: "The offer on the table is far below what we are demanding. This is a cat-and-mouse game we are playing.

"It is frustrating and we cannot go to our members with this.

"We will do everything in our power to ensure that we avoid exploitation."

He warned the government not to even try using the ongoing World Cup to keep them from exercising their right.

"It would be a terrible mistake," he said.

The state's latest offer proposed a general wage increase of 6,5percent and an increase in the housing allowance from R500 a month to R620 a month.

Unions have given the employer three options:

l 10,5percent and a R1000 housing allowance;

l9percent and a R1100 housing allowance;

l8,5percent and a R1200 housing allowance.

Sadtu spokesperson Mugwena Maluleke said they expected an external facilitator to be appointed urgently.

"If we fail to reach agreement we will have no choice but to exercise our rights. We will either embark on mass action or withdraw services. But we want to give these negotiations a chance," Maluleke said.

The unions and ILC said in a statement it was "regrettable" that on the eve of the World Cup negotiations had regressed to a point where labour had no option but to declare a dispute.

"We refuse to be blackmailed by the employer because of the World Cup, and we will fight until our demands are met," the parties said.

"Labour did everything in its power to avert this, but the latest developments left us with no alternative.

"Such a negative approach by the employer is definitely not conducive to sound labour relations and the establishment of a positive perception in the eyes of the international world."

The parties said the employer was out of touch with the reality of existing conditions in the country.

"Workers are struggling to keep up with the spiralling increases in municipal rates and taxes caused by the 24,5percent in electricity tariff increases."