Arrest rampaging strikers, says Zuma




Amy Musgrave, Business Day, 30 July 2009



President Jacob Zuma says that striking municipal workers who have destroyed property and littered the streets should be arrested.


More than 30 municipal employees have been arrested for public violence since they downed tools on Monday. Although trade unions have said they do not condone this action, they do understand it and yesterday dismissed criticism of the street trashing as “class-based responses”. Zuma told reporters in Pretoria after a Cabinet meeting yesterday that arrests should be made.


“I think those people should be arrested for interfering with the rights of ordinary citizens. While they have the right to protest, they don’t have the right to interfere with the rights of other citizens,” he said.


The South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) and the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu) were behind closed doors last night deciding whether to end the strike which has severely affected municipal services across the country.


Workers are demanding a 15% pay rise and the latest offer from the South African Local Government Association (Salga) includes an 11,5% increase from July 1 and another 1,5% in January.


Imatu spokesman Simon Riekert said his union still had thousands of ballots to count on whether to proceed with the strike and a decision was only likely this morning. The two unions are set to meet Salga later in the day on the new offer.


Congress of South African Trade Unions general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi told Talk Radio 702 he hoped municipal workers would settle. “I hope that they will come out of that meeting and accept that 13%,” he said.


Meanwhile members of the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers’ Union , who have been on strike since last week, have called off their mass action. Workers in the pharmaceutical sector have agreed to a 10% pay rise, and those in the industrial chemicals, pulp and paper, and consumer goods sectors will get a 9% wage increase.


“Based on this decision, we are therefore calling upon all our members who have been participating in the strike to return to work by not later than Friday,” said union deputy general secretary Thabane Mdlalose.


SA’s strike season is in full swing, with journalists also participating. Members of two of the SABC’s biggest unions, the Communication Workers' Union (CWU) and the Media Workers’ Association of SA (Mwasa) stayed away from work yesterday and picketed outside the broadcasters' offices.


Employees have demanded a 12,2% salary increase, but management has offered 8,5%.


Mwasa’s acting general secretary Ernest Dlamini estimated that up to 1000 workers at the SABC’s Auckland Park offices stayed away. Additional reporting Jocelyn Newmarch




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