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One Million South African Workers Set to Strike Friday

About one million South African public sector workers are set to go on strike Friday demanding higher pay. It would be one of the country’s largest strikes in more than a decade.

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

“There is a bargaining chamber. In other words, it’s group bargaining with public sector workers. So, it affects educators. It affects health workers. It affects a whole range of groups of people working for the government. And I think about 19 unions are part of this bargaining chamber,” she says.

The main issue is money. “The government has offered a package that includes a six percent pretty much across the board increase. Plus various other elements are included in that package relating to health care and so on. The unions have rejected that offer and are demanding an across the board 12 percent increase,” she says. The government has called the union offer too expensive.

Negotiations have had little effect so far. Robertson says, “There have been talks between the government and the unions. And currently they are considering a document as a basis for negotiation I suppose you would call it. Some proposals put forward by technical teams representing both sides. But they won’t resume talks until next week and so the strike is scheduled to begin tomorrow (Friday) and this time includes so-called independent unions. These are unions not affiliated to any of the umbrella organizations such as the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).