African National Congress supporters line up to enter Peter Mokaba stadium in Polokwane to attend Labour Day celebrations. (Gianluigi Guercia, AFP)
Polokwane - Endless strikes are not in the country's interest, President Jacob Zuma said in Polokwane on Thursday.
"Unions must be alive to the realities that endless strikes are not in the interest of the workers and not in the interest of the economy," he told thousands of people at Cosatu's May Day rally at the Peter Mokaba Stadium.
"Constructive engagement means listening to each other, appreciating what is possible and what is not, and acting in good faith and never resorting to blackmail as a negotiating tool."
He said everyone had a responsible to continue educating society that with rights came responsibilities.
"In exercising our hard-earned rights, we must put the interest of the country first."
Earlier, the crowd cheered and chanted Zuma's name as he walked a lap around the pitch when he arrived. He was flanked by Congress of SA Trade Unions' president Sidumo Dlamini and SA Communist Party general secretary Blade Nzimande.
The 40 000 seat stadium was half-filled with members of the African National Congress in yellow party T-shirts and alliance partner members in red shirts.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union has been on strike at the country's major platinum mines for almost three months.
Zuma warned workers that exercising their right to strike should never degenerate into anarchy.
"The methods of engagement employed by trade unions must always appreciate that we now have a democratic government, put in place by an overwhelming majority of our people, most of whom are workers.
"On the same measure we call on the business sector to respect the rights of workers and pay them decent wages in line with the relevant legislative framework."
Zuma said this was particularly relevant in the mining sector.
"I think we should all agree that the time has come for the situation on the mines to change."