August 5, 2011

Municipal workers announce plans for nationwide strike

Almost 145 000 municipal workers will begin a countrywide strike on August 15, the South African Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu) has announced. "Our union's memberships from around the country have indicated that they are ready and willing to embark on this rolling mass action," Samwu general secretary Mthandeki Nhlapo said. According to him, the union rejected an offer of a 6% wage increase by the employer, the South African Local Government Association (Salga), and demanded increases of 18% or R2 000, whichever was greater. "Contrary to what analysts have been saying, we believe that there is nothing wrong with demanding double digits. In fact, with such grave poverty witnessed in our country, workers ought to demand nothing less." He said the strike would extend to the essential services sector, and possibly the water sector. "If workers in the water sector strike, there will be a water crisis. Almost 60% to 70% of workers in South Africa's water boards are Samwu members."

In the meantime, diamond miners in South Africa have returned to work after a 14-day strike. South Africa's labour unions have so far reached wage deals with gold, coal and diamond mining companies to end strikes. The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said Impala Platinum had improved its wage offer to avert a strike, which could hit production at the world's second-largest producer of the precious metal. Following a pattern seen in recent years, many union demands have been far above the official inflation rate, which was 5.0 percent in June. (sapa/The Independent/sadocc)

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