According to media reports, the South African government and a public service workers union coalition could renew their talks this week over a wage dispute at the center of a nationwide strike that began August 18th.
But, Mugwena Maluleke, General-Secretary of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) told VOA the strike will continue because the government has not met the civil servants’ demands of an 8.6 percent wage increase and housing allowance.
“The strike is still going on because our demands have not been met, our demands of 8.6 percent of salary increases, 1,000 rand ($137) housing allowance and equalization of medical aid and the implementation date of the first of April every year,” he said.
The government has offered a 7 percent salary increase and a $96 housing allowance.
Maluleke said the unions have asked the government to revise its offer as a starting point for negotiations.
But, he said the government has shown an unwillingness to come back to the negotiating table.
“Since we embarked on the strike, the government has also embarked on other processes, for example, of interdicting the workers and also signing that particular agreement with the intention of implementing that agreement unilaterally after 21 days. So, therefore, the government does not show any willingness to come back to the table so that we will be able to negotiate an acceptable settlement,” Maluleke said.
He said the workers have made compromises taking into consideration all the other factors affecting the workers and the country.
“We also believe that the recession has affected more the working people who already are not earning enough, obviously, in terms of (the) rising cost of electricity in our country, but also in terms of the food aspect and fuel,” he said.
The impact of the strike is being felt in many sectors of the country, especially in the health sector. But, Maluleke said the government is to blame.
“All the time when we were refusing to go on strike, we had pushed the government to understand that, once the public service strike continues, it may have catastrophic effect. And, the government clearly did not listen,” he said.
South African President Jacob Zuma has also criticized the violent nature of the strike.
But, Maluleke said the union has called on its members to avoid any kind of violence.
“What we have indicated clearly is that, as (a) responsible union, we’ve called upon our members to withdraw their labor and not engage themselves in anything that can jeopardize the demands that they have put forward, which demands are legitimate,” Maluleke said.