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South African Government and Unions Agreed to Meet Again Friday

South Africa's government and union negotiators have will meet again Friday for further talks aimed at settling a three-week-old strike by civil servants. The government threatened to end negotiations Wednesday if the unions did not accept what it said was its final offer.

Patrick Craven, national spokesman for the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) told VOA the government’s claim of an ultimatum was just a media statement.

“It appears that no such ultimatum was given. That was just a statement in the media. Within the actual bargaining process, no such ultimatum was given,” he said.

Craven confirmed talks between the unions and the government would resume Friday after the unions have got what he called a mandate from their members. But he would not speculate if the unions would accept the government’s so-called final offer.

Spokesman for the South African Department of Public Service and Administration, Lewis Rabkin told VOA the government’s latest offer was comprehensive.

“We have put a general increase on the table with new salary scale for teachers, nurses, doctors, legal professionals with an across the board general increase of 7.25 percent, and increases in allowances and increases in overtime,” Rabkin said.

Craven said although the strike will continue until a final agreement is reached, there was no plan to get other workers to join.

“There are no plans at the moment to extending it. Obviously we need to see the outcome of this current round of negotiations,”

Craven denied the strike was a political statement to the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to project labor’s strength.

“This is a strike about wages and working conditions. It is not and has never been anything to do with the ANC policy conference,” Craven said.

But he accused the government was using a strong-arm tactics in its negotiation with the unions.

“The government is certainly trying to adopt a very rigid and intransigent proposal to try to project their role as employer,” he said.