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South African Strike Nearly a Month Old

The public sector workers’ strike continues in South Africa and is now about a month old. The strike has lost some support, as unions and the government continue to differ on a pay increase.

VOA reporter Delia Robertson is following the story. From Johannesburg, she spoke to English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua.

“Since last week when the government made what it called its final offer on Friday, the unions have been considering that offer, although some unions, it seems, have decided they will no longer continue with the strike. The unions were due to meet with the government yesterday (Sunday), but decided not to and also postponed making a decision about the strike because they say they are continuing to consult with their members.

A labor meeting about the strike has been rescheduled for Wednesday, the same day as the start of the ruling African National Congress’ policy conference. Asked whether there’s a connection, Robertson says, “The unions say there is not. In fact, COSATU President Willie Madisha said the unions were not playing politics in the scheduling of their meeting and in refusing to make a decision or not making a decision up until on the government’s offer. But a lot of analysts here think that there is a connection and that the unions, particularly the COSATU-affiliated unions, are hoping that a continued strike will send a message to the ANC conference in Midrand, near Johannesburg, that they should consider the workers and the poor when they meet on these matters.”

As for the decrease in strike participation, she says, “I think people are getting really tired of being on strike. They have been without pay for almost an entire month now…and it’s very difficult for individual people to continue going. I also think that people are perhaps ready to accept a lower offer than the one that they originally demanding, perhaps because the entire package is more beneficial than they had originally thought it would be.”