In South Africa, a strike by public sector unions is now a week old. Friday, unions lowered their wage demands, while calling for a facilitator to help with negotiations with the government.
VOA reporter Delia Robertson is following developments. From Johannesburg, she spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the union’s new wage proposal.
“It includes a demand for a 10 percent increase on basic salaries, down from 12 percent, which is what they have been demanding for some months now. But it’s unlikely that the government I believe would go that high. And I think that ultimately the union might be willing with negotiations to come down to a lower amount, perhaps around eight percent. In fact, that is an amount that a number of labor analysts suggest might be a reasonable compromise,” she says.
The government has proposed a pay hike of 6.5 percent on basic salaries. Robertson says, “They argue that in fact their proposal, when it includes allowances and other benefits, is much closer to the 12 percent that has been demanded by the unions.”
As for the union call for a facilitator in the wage talks, she says, “That’s an interesting demand, actually, because in fact there is an organization tasked with managing and overseeing and facilitating the negotiations already. But I suppose that given the way the strike seems to be going – there’s a lot of animosity – there’ve been some really nasty incidents – that maybe a completely new person would assist the process or could assist the process.”
Asked about the effectiveness of the strike, the VOA reporter says, “Up until now…I suppose you could call it patchy support. There’s been widespread support among educators, many of whom have stayed away, especially around the cities. And also in the cities there’ve been large-scale stayaways by health workers. But what the unions are doing today (Friday) is they’ve called out all public servants, regardless of their status, and apparently it has been quite successful. And that is just for today and that includes unions from municipalities, which are not involved in these negotiations.