BREAKING: National strike to continue indefinitely as negotiations break down, unions vow to 'keep fighting'

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Labour minister Mildred Oliphant and transport minister Blade Nzimande met with unions on Thursday morning to negotiate workers’ conditions that resulted in the national strike on Wednesday.

The unions have been negotiating for a wage increase, better working conditions and are challenging the proposed amendments to the labour law.

Before the meeting, the department of transport spokesperson, Ishmael Mnisi, said that both departments hope for the “impasse” between all parties to end.

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He said he would like the government to play its role in finding solutions to end the strike but was not willing to speak more on the matter to allow the negotiations to take its course.

“We can’t pre-empt negotiations,” said department of labour media liaison officer, Sithembele Tshwete, who echoed Mnisi’s point.

Tshwete said there was a commitment from all parties involved to continue with the negotiations through an arbitration process.

“Both ministers are happy that the negotiations are continuing,” he said.

However, on Thursday evening the negotiations stalled and did not result in the unions’ demands being granted.

South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) and National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), together with three other unions, released a joint statement expressing their discontent with the outcome of the negotiations.

“It is deeply concerning that both the ministers of transport and labour were unable to convince the employers to do the right thing. First and foremost, the denial of a night shift allowance is a gross violation of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act,” said the statement.

Other demands from the unions included a 12{1f0bb132e08ca1f8565add86e1f8740171c75f84ed80bad4a750114913f392ef} wage increase, which was negotiated down to 9.5{1f0bb132e08ca1f8565add86e1f8740171c75f84ed80bad4a750114913f392ef} following the 9{1f0bb132e08ca1f8565add86e1f8740171c75f84ed80bad4a750114913f392ef} proposal by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration. But the unions claim the employers are not meeting them halfway.

“In light of this inflexible position of the employers, we call on our members to continue the strike into the long weekend. They must do so, because striking is the only way to force bosses to give in,” the unions said.

Meanwhile, in a separate statement the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) has expressed concerns with the proposed amendments to the labour laws and continue to challenge the existing minimum wage.

Saftu said they will continue “mass action on the streets, which will get bigger each time, until we finally achieve [our] goals which are for a living minimum wage of R12 500 and amendments to labour laws to make it easier, not harder, for workers to be able to enjoy their constitutional right to strike”.

The unions said they will continue to strike indefinitely.


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