- Title: SOUTH AFRICA: Public sector unions stage one day strike
- Date: 11th August 2010
- Summary: CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA (AUGUST 10, 2010) (REUTERS) WORKERS MARCHING THROUGH THE STREETS OF CAPE TOWN / WORKERS HOLDING PLACARDS, CHANTING: "PUBLIC SERVICE STRIKE - WE DEMAND 8.5%" VARIOUS OF WORKERS HOLDING PLACARDS AND BANNERS MARCHING THROUGH CAPE TOWN VARIOUS OF WORKERS MARCHING TOWARDS PARLIAMENT VARIOUS OF SINGING AND CHANTING WORKERS GATHERED OUTSIDE PARLIAMENT WORKERS HOLDING PLACARD SAYING, "NO TO 6.5%" MORE OF WORKERS GATHERED OUTSIDE PARLIAMENT EXTERIOR OF PARLIAMENT POLICE WATCHING WORKERS CHANTING
- Embargoed: 26th August 2010 13:00
- Location: South Africa
- Country: South Africa
- Topics: Employment
- Reuters ID: LVAY9J4THEWNQKJ1EAXVTP2G4C1
- Story Text: South Africa public sector unions representing more than a million workers staged a one-day strike on Tuesday (August 10), threatening an extended labour stoppage this week that could deal a blow to Africa's largest economy.
Tuesday's action increases pressure on president Jacob Zuma's government to reach a deal by a Thursday deadline set by the unions to prevent a repeat of a prolonged public sector strike three years ago that dented the economy and damaged support for Zuma's predecessor.
Marches were held in Cape Town and Pretoria, South Africa's administrative capital, as part of a "total shut-down of the public service", according to the country's largest umbrella labour organisation COSATU.
"We are asking for 8.6 percent only. We are asking for a mere 1000 Rands for a housing allowance only. This is peanuts comrades," the unions secretary general, Zwelinzima Vavi told workers in Cape Town.
Everything from schools to public offices was affected, although essential services such as police and hospitals were running on reduced staffing.
The Department of Home Affairs said immigration services at ports and airports had not been affected and measures had been taken at major airports to ensure minimal disruption.
Unions and government negotiators planned talks later in the day, after the protest marches were over, union officials said.
Unions want an 8.6 percent pay hike, twice the current rate of inflation, and a 1,000 rand ($138) monthly housing allowance.
The government is offering 7 percent and 630 rand for housing, although analysts believe it is likely to raise its offer rather than risk a walk-out that would damage the economy.
"We are ready to go back to Pretoria now, but we won't go there like the previous times for mahala (for free). We want them to make a substantial movement for us to begin to talk. We have spoken to them for the past 7 months, they are not listening, they are not listening. Today, this is not a strike, we are only firing the first warning shot," added Vavi.
Analysts expect the ruling African National Congress, which has a long-standing alliance with organised labour, to give in to the unions' demands. But such a deal will make it hard to bring the deficit down from 6.7 percent of GDP without spending cutbacks elsewhere.
The government, which budgeted for wage increases based on a 5.2 percent inflation projection, has not said how much more it would spend under its offer or the deal sought by the unions.
In an indication of how costly the deal could be, just the 1,000 rand monthly housing allowance sought by the unions could account for more than one percent of the state budget.
The government said its offer package would amount to an average 9 percent increase for 1.3 million unionised public servants.
A mid-grade public sector employee makes on average 8,800 rand a month in salary and benefits, above the national average wage of 6,383 rand, according to government figures.
The central bank has also expressed concern about elevated pay increases stoking inflation in the wider economy, putting upward pressure on interest rates.
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