Minister breaks his silence on Post Office strike

Minister Siyabonga Cwele has asked Sapo to open forums of discussion to end the strike.

Striking post office workers are protesting outside of the Tshwane Mail Centre in Johannesburg on 15 October 2014. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Siyabonga Cwele has assured South Africans his department will continue to negotiate with all the relevant parties to end the post office strike as soon as possible.

The minister has asked South African Post Office (Sapo) management to open forums of discussion with the representatives of the striking employees as one of the ways to try and end the industrial action.

The strike has now entered its third month, with strikers demanding a 15 percent pay increase and casual staff calling for permanent employment.

Earlier this week, the Communications Workers Union (CWU) rejected Sapo's offer of a six percent pay increase and a phasing in of permanent contracts over a three-year period.

Cases of intimidation by those participating in the strike have been on the rise, with several post offices, including one in Soweto and another in Pretoria, being vandalised.

The department's Siya Qoza says they've received an influx of complaints and are working tirelessly to sort this out.

"On a daily basis we are getting messages and queries from people across the spectrum. We are quite aware and committed to making sure the postal service is working as quickly as possible."

The department says it's positive talks with Sapo management and unions representing it's striking staff are materialising and employees will return to their posts soon.

Qoza says, "We are encouraged by the progress in negotiations and hope that the negotiations bring stability to the post office because we are quite focused and we want the post office to operate normally."

Meanwhile, striking post office employees say they will continue protesting outside the Tshwane Mail Centre every day, until management grants their demands.

Demonstrations outside the mail centre on Wednesday brought operations to a virtual standstill, as hundreds of non-striking staff refused to enter the building until their safety could be guaranteed.

One striking employee says they will shut down production at the mail centre until their demands are met.

"We're going to demonstrate this until they succumb to our demands."