Police Fire Rubber Bullets at South Africa Strikers
Police Fire Rubber Bullets at South Africa Strikers

Police in South Africa have fired rubber bullets at striking public workers who are demanding higher pay.

Authorities dispersed crowds at two locations on Thursday.  In Soweto township, police broke up a crowd that blocked a road outside a hospital, preventing patients from entering.

In the other instance, police fired rubber bullets at striking teachers in Ormonde, a suburb of Johannesburg, as they tried to march toward the main highway leading into the city.

No major injuries were reported at the hospital site. In Ormonde, however, the head of at least one officer was seen bleeding as teachers threw bricks and stones at police.

Unions representing 1.3 million teachers, health care workers, and other civil servants went on strike Wednesday, demanding an 8.6 percent pay increase and a higher housing allowance.

The South African government says its final offer is 7 percent and that if no agreement is reached it will begin paying the workers at that rate.

The government's offer would also increase the housing allowance from $87 to $95 per month, although the workers are demanding $137.

Public Services Minister Richard Baloyi says that under the government's offer, other public services would have to be cut.  

Three years ago, public workers staged a crippling strike that shut down many schools and forced some hospitals to operate with minimal staff for several weeks.

This latest strike puts pressure on South African President Jacob Zuma, who had strong backing from labor unions during his campaign for president.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.