The information and communications technology sector is ready to roll out mass strike action, the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) said in Johannesburg on Friday.
“It is almost clear that we will be embarking on this mother of all industrial actions,” CWU general secretary Gallant Roberts said.
“We are almost under siege.”
Even if agreements were reached with certain companies where disputes had been declared, members would still embark on solidarity strikes, he said.
Roberts said there was general unhappiness in the sector over wages, the threat of possible job losses through restructuring, as well as poor administration.
“We are hopeful that we will get the full support of the entire membership that is 27 000 [to strike].”
Members came from companies such as the SABC, Telkom, the SA Post Office, Society and Network for Technology in Education through Collaboration (Santec), and the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa).
Dates have been set with the Council for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to deal with a number of disputes with these companies.
On June 29, the union and Santec would be having a meeting at the CCMA.
On July 7, the union and the SA Post Office and separately also Telkom would convene at the CCMA.
Telkom and the union are also working with an independent mediator to try to resolve certain problems.
Roberts said union members were unhappy with apparent “clandestine restructuring” at the company which could lead to job losses.
“Our members in Telkom are feeling insecure. They are not sure what will happen tomorrow.”
The union believed these possible job losses would come as a result of Telkom divesting its shares in Vodacom to Vodaphone and its profits having fallen for the 2009 financial year.
At Santec, issues around salary increments remained unresolved, and at the SA Post Office, union members were not happy about the possible integration of various divisions, he said.
Regarding the SABC, the CWU and Media Workers Association of SA (Mwasa) are awaiting the outcome of a court judgment to hear if they can embark on a strike.
The SABC has asked for a CCMA certificate giving the unions the right to strike over a wage dispute to be reviewed.
The SABC has been in a state of upheaval amid reports of mismanagement of funds and the resignation of almost its entire board.
“Enough is enough. It is almost a circus,” Roberts said. “We can’t allow our members to take the brunt of the mismanagement of the board.”
The labour court gives its judgment on the matter on July 3.
However, Roberts said whatever the outcome, its members at the SABC were ready for solidarity strike action.
“Should we get a certificate with Telkom or Santec [granting a right to strike]…we will equally mobilise our members from SABC to embark on a solidarity strike.”
A sector-wide strike would be important because many concerns in the usually quite fragmented ICT sector were actually similar.
“In all these companies the issue of apartheid wage gaps is still a major issue,” he said.
White people in the same positions as black people were getting higher salaries, as well as more incentives and bonuses.
CWU plant secretary Rian Geldenhuys said, across the sector, “management refuses to move an inch”.
“They will not admit to a wage gap. They will say salary issues are secret, that [when it comes to] their salaries, we should not be jealous of how much they get.”
Geldenhuys said the public should be supporting the unions call for reform in the sector.
“We are generally concerned over the lack of clean administration in all of these public enterprises by management and we think that the public must support us.
“We are not greedy for salary increases, we are greedy for a clean administration,” he said.
Roberts said while a media blackout at the SABC was not planned, it could be a side affect of the possible sector strike.
“Should there be a complete TV blackout…it would not be because the union is spiteful, but the union would be exercising its right to force the employers to accede,” he said.
ICT sector strike – do you support it?