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Jul 01, 2009

Construction workers strike will be unprotected, Safcec warns

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The South African Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors (Safcec) on Wednesday said that any strike action undertaken by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Building, Construction, and Allied Workers Union (BCAWU) would be unprotected.

Safcec spokesperson Joe Campanella said that the decision to go on strike on July 8 was premature as the current substantive agreement on wages between Safcec and the unions was only due to expire at the end of August.

Campanella told Engineering News Online on Tuesday that the industry body was consulting its lawyers in an effort to obtain a possible interdict against the strike.

However, the NUM and BCAWU stated that the strike would go ahead.

“We went to the Commission for Consolidation, Mediation and Arbitration and we were given a certificate to strike. They are within their rights to get an interdict, but we are also within our right to mobilise our members into a strike action. We will see what will happen next week when the interdict meets the strike action,” said NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka.

BCAWU spokesperson Marius Moloto agreed that Safcec had no grounds for an interdict, saying that it was the constitutional right of their members to strike. He noted that as negations deadlocked around wage negotiations, the unions were well within their rights to call on members to strike.

“The strike will definitely go ahead. The only reason why the strike will not go ahead if is there is a settlement. Our advice [to Safcec] is that they shouldn’t spend more time consulting lawyers and rushing to the labour court, they should rather spend time to look into settling the issues that are outstanding,” Moloto said.

Safce’s unconditional offer of 10%, which was tabled on Friday June 26, 2009, was in addition to the voluntary increase of 3% given by Safcec Members in November 2008. However, the unions were demanding a 14% increase in wages.

“What must be understood is that the increase in November was championed by Safcec as a result of the consumer price index going through the roof and the need to address this,” Campanella said.

Campella noted that the industry representative body had conducted itself responsibly in terms of all wage negotiations. “The offer of a 10% increase is above general levels of settlement and remains unconditional. The industry body remains available 24 hours day for discussion with the unions,” Safcec said in a statement.

The unions stated on Wednesday that about 50 000 workers would take part in the strike, and projects affected would include stadiums related to the FIFA World Cup, the Gautrain project, and the King Shaka airport construction, among others.

However, Campanelle pointed out these wage negotiations and the pending unprotected strike would not affect the entire construction sector.

Edited by: Mariaan Webb
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