In South Africa, public sector employees are meeting to decide whether to go on strike – and if they do, it could be one of the largest strikes the country has faced.
VOA reporter Delia Robertson is following the story. From Johannesburg, she spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua.
“It is different this time around because it’s likely to be the largest public sector strike in at least a decade. It is all the unions in the public sector. That includes unions such as nurses, teachers, people working in government…doctors employed by the government and so on. So, it’s pretty much across the board. And it’s also all of the union. So not only unions that fall under the umbrella of the Congress of South African Trade unions (COSATU), but other umbrella union organizations as well,” she says.
Asked whether it’s rare for unions in South Africa to appear so united, Robertson says, “It is quite unusual, although it’s not the first time it’s happened. It’s becoming more common for the unions from different, you might say, political persuasions to work closely together on labor issues.”
The main issue is pay. The South African government has offered a six percent pay hike. The unions are demanding 12 percent.
Often periodic strikes in South Africa are scheduled to last only one or two days. “It would be much larger and it would probably carry on until one side or the other gives. Also, what they have been suggesting what might happen is that there might be some work to rule and go slow activity prior to the actual strike itself. The government has said if that happens they would take disciplinary action because…according to the rules that govern strikes in this country, there’s been nothing decided about work to rule or go slow,” she says.
The unions are expected to decide whether to strike within a few days, but a strike probably would not start until June.