Mapungubwe workers back at work

By Drum Digital
20 March 2012

Striking employees at the Mapungubwe National Park in Limpopo will return to work after a six-week labour dispute, SA National Parks (SANParks) said on Tuesday.

"They are coming back unconditionally," said SANParks spokesman Reynold Thakhuli.

Those on strike at Kruger National Park (KNP) were trickling back to their posts, he said.

About 360 SANParks workers left their unions and went on strike at the beginning of February.

The SA National Defence Force, the police and retired rangers were called in to help patrol, particularly at KNP where there was a wave of rhino poaching.

The workers had abandoned their unions -- the Health and Other Service Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa) and the SA Commercial Catering and Allied Workers' Union (Saccawu) -- over pay disparities and other labour issues.

Thakuli said eight workers still on strike at Mapungubwe had returned to work by Tuesday, and 14 on strike at KNP had also returned to work.

However, most of the striking workers at KNP park were still staying away from work.

SANParks had decided that Hospersa and Saccawu would form a negotiating forum to raise issues they had with SANParks.

It was up to those ending their strike to decide whether they would rejoin their unions, or to decide how they would be represented in negotiations.

"They need to be part of the bargaining forum," he said.

"We respect their right of association. If they don't [return to their unions] it is their right and we won't deprive them of their rights," said Thakuli.

"But daily we receive one or two people from various camps, saying they will go back [to work]."

SANParks had tried previously without success to get representatives of the strikers around a table to talk, but they had been unruly and unco-operative, he said.

Three workers had been arrested for intimidating tourists and SANParks had to get an interdict to keep them away from the gates at the Phalaborwa side of the park.

Thakhuli urged those still on strike to go back to work because "their strike is not serving its intended purpose".

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