About 180,000 workers in South Africa’s public service sector will strike on July 29 after wage negotiations with the government became deadlocked, said a union official.
State workers including nurses, teachers, police and immigration officers rejected the government’s 6.5 percent wage offer and are demanding an 8.6 percent increase and a 1,000 rand monthly housing allowance.
By law, essential workers may not strike. Previous public sector strikes have been violent with incidents of intimidation and vandalism reported. The South African Military Health Service has in the past deployed doctors, nurses and other health professionals to state hospitals to maintain essential services. The SA Army deployed infantry to several hospitals to protect the facilities and military health staff who also reported cases of intimidation.
“We have been issued a certificate to strike and the strike may be much larger if COSATU-affiliated unions join us,” said Public Servants Association (PSA) spokesperson Manie De Clercq.
South Africa’s economy has recovered slowly over the past several months from its first recession in 17 years.
“It is regrettable that the PSA has prematurely issued their notice to strike before the employer could complete its internal processes intended to find solutions,” said a statement issued by the ministry for public service and administration.
Salary negotiations with the largest labour umbrella group, the Congress of South Africa Trade Unions (COSATU), have also become deadlocked and the federation is balloting its members on whether to join the strike.
“We are hoping the employer will revise their offer but in the event that they don’t, we will also strike by next week,” said Sizwe Pamla, spokesman for the National Education, Health and Allied Workers — a COSATU affiliated union.
Aubrey Matshiqi, a political analyst at the Centre for Policy Studies, said: “There is no doubt that the salaries of the teachers, doctors, nurses and police are shameful.
“There is a great possibility that there will be a strike but hopefully government will intervene.”
If COSATU joins the industrial action, as many as 1.3 million state employees could walk off their jobs.