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Cosatu gives final notice of strikes

By Reneé Grawitzky, Business Day
23 February 2000

THE Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) has issued a final notice to government and business of its intention to embark on countrywide strikes from next month in support of its campaign to halt job losses.

The notice was served ahead of the start of the strike by thousands of truck drivers yesterday who were demanding that employers pay overtime in accordance with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.

Negotiations between the Road Freight Employers' Association and the six unions party to the council negotiations were expected to continue late into the night in order to ensure a return to work.

The unions said 55000 truckers had heeded the strike call and that some blockades had been reported.

Meanwhile, Cosatu informed the National Economic, Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) that it was serving the required 14-days notice of its intention to embark on protest action from March 6.

The federation plans to hold regional protests in eight provinces in the build-up to a national strike on May 10.

A source close to the process said it was debatable whether Cosatu's planned action could be challenged in the Labour Court as uncertainty existed about whether the Nedlac process has been fully exhausted in line with the Labour Relations Act. Cosatu believed that deadlock had been reached.

Business SA spokesman Vic van Vuuren expressed his disappointment that the planned action was going ahead as he believed it would not serve anyone's interests.

Many of the issues could be resolved in macro-level debates, "and various processes were and are under way to achieve this", Van Vuuren said.

Cosatu's call for protests emanates from a notice served on Nedlac in July in terms of section 77 of the act which gives workers the right to embark on protest action, if certain procedures are followed.

Cosatu threatened action if a range of demands relating to job creation and retrenchments were not met.

Cosatu's demands went beyond labour-related issues and challenged government's monetary and industrial policies which they claimed contributed to job losses.

It demanded a reduction in interest rates, a halt to government's plan to speed up tariff reductions, amendments to the Labour Relations Act and Insolvency Act and the status of the national framework agreement on state asset restructuring.

A special Nedlac meeting was held on February 3 at which it emerged that progress had been made on some issues but others remained unresolved.

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