THE Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) plans to take to the streets over electricity price increases, amid tension in the tripartite alliance over economic policy.

Cosatu was also concerned about a possible conflict of interest with the African National Congress's (ANC's) investment arm. It owns 25% of Hitachi SA, which stands to gain from Eskom's expansion programme.

"The ANC will not be able to ward off concern that it may have decided to accept the extraordinarily high tariffs imposed on the poor and industry because it stands to benefit," Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said yesterday.

Vavi could not give dates for the proposed protests, except to say that they would not disrupt the Soccer World Cup that starts in June.

"We wouldn't want to strike during the World Cup but our interests are bigger than the World Cup," he said.

The proposed action over electricity price hikes had the support of the Federation of Unions of SA and the National Council of Trade Unions.

Vavi said Cosatu was still angry that the Treasury was "infected by the highly organised but conservative bureaucrats" who advanced certain policies while suppressing others. "The problem is this pick and choose attitude among bureaucrats and government officials," he said.

Echoing comments he made after last month's budget presentation that there was still no implementation of policies agreed within the ruling ANC- Cosatu-South African Communist Party alliance, Vavi said progress was undermined by "the government's unilateral action". He said this "has been a problem for the past 16 years in the alliance".

johwaw@bdfm.co.za