September 2, 2010

Public sector strike set to continue

South Africa's public sector strike is set to continue after the main trade union federation rejected an improved wage offer from the government. The Cosatu federation said the majority of its affiliated unions had voted against the proposal. The strike is now into its third week.

Earlier this week, the government raised its pay offer to 7.5%, but the unions are demanding 8.6%. The government also offered an 800-rand ($110) housing allowance - up from the earlier proposed 700 rand. The unions demand a 1,000-rand allowance. "The unions met this afternoon and Cosatu rejected the offer. The strikes will continue and we will continue to consult our members," Cosatu Secretary General Zwelinzima Vavi said, hinting there was still scope for a deal. His stance followed a hardening of attitudes among leaders of Cosatu-affiliated unions.

The largest health union, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu), rejected the offer, and the biggest teacher union, the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) was headed for a split. Sadtu regions and Nehawu held out for an 8,6% pay increase and 1000-rand housing allowance.

The action has brought state services to a near-halt, and put the ruling African National Congress's (ANC's) alliance with its trade union and communist partners under severe strain. South Africa's President Jacob Zuma called for fresh attempts to negotiate a solution to the strike. About 1,3-million public sector workers are already on strike, but Cosatu's total affiliated membership is double that.

Besides, car workshops and petrol stations were also hit by strikes in September 1st, as workers demanded a wage increase of 15% and employers offered 6,6%. BMW South Africa also said that due to the component industry strike, the second shift on three days had been cancelled without pay. Volkswagen South Africa said that it would shut down its manufacturing plant in Uitenhage until further notice. (Business Day/SADOCC)

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