Art by Yousef Amairi

Art by Yousef Amairi
the struggle continues

September 04, 2010

SOUTH AFRICAN PUBLIC SECTOR STRIKE: Ray of hope to end deadlock, Anna Majavu, Sowetan, 3 September 2010

ONE of the most militant unions in the public servants strike has raised hopes the impasse between workers and the government could be resolved after all.

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu), whose members were the first to reject the government's new wage offer on Wednesday, said yesterday its members might be reconsidering.

Spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said a change of heart might occur because of a new housing scheme for public servants that the government is busy working on. He said not all union members were yet informed of this new commitment by government, made this week in ongoing talks.

Public sector workers often complain they earn "too much" to qualify for RDP houses - but "too little" to get a decent bond from a bank.

"Government will recommend that the Government Employees Pension Fund, the Department of Human Settlements, and the Public Investment Corporation actually develop that idea (housing scheme). They will research it and put together a model before April 1 2011," Pamla told Sowetan.

He said many Nehawu members had not been informed about this when they rejected the offer.

"In terms of technical details, the plan is still vague but at least time frames have been set," he said.

The government's latest wage offer of a 7,5percent increase and an R800 a month housing allowance had been leaked to the media and this had caused problems, he said.

"Some stewards never took time out to actually read through the whole document. Some of them didn't explain it to the members. They just heard about the R800 and 7,5percent in the media and decided to reject it.

But Sowetan has also been told that Nehawu is divided over the housing scheme proposal. A Nehawu leader who spoke on condition of anonymity said the union could not tell members to go back to work because "there is something in the air".

"We heard that Tokyo Sexwale (human settlements minister) will introduce a programme and that this will be disclosed to us by April next year. But there are no details and we aren't going to rush to tell our members there is something in the air.

Public Service and Administration Minister Richard Baloyi's spokesperson Lebogang Mafokosi said she could not provide any details of the new housing scheme. She previously told Sowetan the housing scheme still needed to be developed and that discussions with the unions were to have started in October.

Cosatu declined to comment on the developments, saying a statement would be issued today. Spokesperson Patrick Craven said he did not want to affect the talks.

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