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Negotiators back to talks

PUBLIC service sector unions and relevant government departments were scheduled to meet last night in another desperate effort to end the strike that continues to paralyse the education and public health sectors.

The meeting followed a call by President Jacob Zuma to the two parties affected by the strike to put the interests of the country first.

The strike will enter its third week tomorrow if attempts at negotiations fail.

Cosatu-affiliated unions and independent unions were scheduled to meet the government at the public service coordinating bargaining council in Centurion, Pretoria.

The government were to be led by Minister of Public Service and Administration Richard Baloyi.

The Independent Labour Caucus (ILC) said in a statement that it welcomed the call by the president.

"The Minister of the DPSA has requested that a special meeting of the PSCBC must take place this afternoon at 6pm. The hope is expressed that a reasonable offer will be made to enable the ILC to take it back to their members and possibly obtain a mandate with regard to the way ahead," ILC spokesperson Chris Klopper said.

Cosatu strike organiser Sifiso Khumalo would not say much, except that they were looking forward to the meeting. He said if the government made a new offer they would take it to the members for approval.

The unions are demanding an 8,6 percent salary hike and R1000 housing allowance.

The government's offer is a 7percent wage rise and R700 for housing.

Private sector unions affiliated to Cosatu have threatened to go on a solidarity strike on Thursday to put pressure on the government to accede to the workers' demands. Cosatu commands 2million members in all sectors.

Government spokesperson Themba Maseko said: "The government assures the public that everything will be done to find a solution to the dispute. We will work with public service unions to find an amicable solution to the impasse."

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