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S. African Government Seeks Injunction to Bar Police Officers from Strike

The South African Police Service is seeking a court order to prevent police officers from joining the public service strike. VOA'S Delia Robertson reports from our bureau in Johannesburg the action comes against the backdrop of the expected resumption of formal negotiations on an agreement that could bring an end to the 15-day strike.

The police service decided to seek the injunction following a decision by the police, prisons and civil rights union to call its members out on strike because an agreement to end the strike has not been reached.

Union spokesperson Pat Ntsobi told national radio the union is ready to defy the legal prohibition against strikes by its members.

"Well, we will not deviate from the mandate of our congress," said Ntsobi. "Our congress said embark on this strike if it is not resolved by Friday, and that is clearly what we are implementing now."

On Thursday, union negotiators called a hurried meeting with the government during which the government made a new offer, including an across-the-board 7.25 percent basic salary increase. The unions said they would seek a fresh mandate from their members.

One newspaper has reported that the government is getting ready to unilaterally implement its wage package, if an agreement is not reached within days. This is legally permitted and is something the government did in 1999, a move which ended an equally hostile dispute.

While the public generally supports public servants in their demand for better wages and employment conditions, public sentiment is shifting because of incidents of violence and intimidation.

The public has also been angered by the lengthy disruption to education and the neglect of patients in hospitals and medical facilities.

Talks between the parties will formally resume on Sunday.