THE national broadcaster faces a blackout this weekend as striking workers vow to “bring the SABC to its knees”, write Sally Evans and Gabisile Ndebele in The Times.

Ahead of wage talks today, workers threatened to intensify the stayaway if their demands are not met.

Yesterday there was a major glitch in national television and radio broadcasting when SABC staff walked off the job.

SAB2’s Morning Live current affairs show started 40 minutes late yesterday after employees walked off the set moments before the broadcast was due to begin at 6am.

SABC workers downed tools for the second day yesterday, saying they have rejected the public broadcaster’s 8.5% wage-increase offer. They allege that the corporation reneged on a promise to implement a wage agreement in April.

Live broadcasts that might be affected if the strikes continue are news broadcasts, children’s YoTV, the Laduma soccer show, and the Interface and Weekend Live actuality shows.

Yesterday, unions representing most of the broadcaster’s employees said broadcasting would be interrupted indefinitely if wage negotiations deadlocked today.

SABC staff yesterday embarked on their most vociferous protest yet. They prevented non-striking employees from entering the SABC building in Auckland Park, Johannesburg, and threatened to block access to the studios of people due to be interviewed on SABC programmes.

Employees were sprayed with water cannon by the police during the protests yesterday.

Senior representatives of the unions are to meet the SABC’s interim board chairwoman, Irene Charnley, today to discuss the wage offer.

The Communication Workers’ Union and the Media Association of SA are demanding a 12.2% pay increase, but the cash-strapped broadcaster has not budged from its 8.5% offer tabled earlier this month.

The SABC has repeatedly told its workers that it cannot afford the increase they are demanding.

It has asked the government for a R2-billion bailout.

Gallant Roberts, general secretary of the Communication Workers’ Union, said yesterday: “We have a clear mandate from our members — we want 12.2%.”

Roberts said the SABC can expect more interruptions to live broadcasts at the weekend, including during the final of the Charity Cup .

“There were delays and interruptions yesterday and we can expect more over the weekend.

The SABC needs to seriously consider implementing the 12.2% or brace itself for crippling mass action. Our members’ determination and anger is nearing explosive levels.”

SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said “contingency plans” were in place for the weekend’s broadcasts.

But sources within the SABC told The Times that: “Most of the technical staff that control what will be on television during the days are off on the strike. Some are just scared to come to work because they are feeling threatened by those that are striking.”

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