South African municipal workers have rejected a 13 percent wage-hike offer to continue striking for a fourth day. Trash collectors, bus drivers and other city employees are demanding a 15 percent pay increase in the wake of double-digit inflation.
AFP - South African municipal workers on Thursday rejected a wage offer aimed at ending a four-day strike amid anti-poverty protests and as the country prepares to host the World Cup.
Trash collectors, bus drivers, and other municipal workers launched an indefinite strike on Monday and have staged daily marches through major cities to demand a 15 percent increase.
The South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) rejected a proposal for a 13 percent increase, saying that workers were struggling to make ends meet after inflation topped out last year at 13.7 percent.
Workers and employers were holding new talks in Pretoria to break the impasse, with unions insisting they would stick to their demands.
"We are anxiously waiting for the negotiations to finish," said Mthandeki Nhlapo, a union spokesman.
Stephen Faulkner, another union official, said workers needed the full increase to compensate for the high inflation last year.
"Over the last few years, our members have lost. We are trying to catch up for losses," Faulkner said.
Winter months routinely see heavy strike action in South Africa, as many contracts come up for renewal at mid-year.
But this year's protests have underscored the troubles facing President Jacob Zuma as the country struggles through its first recession since apartheid, under the glare of the global spotlight ahead of next year's football World Cup.
Construction workers at World Cup stadiums went on strike earlier this month and won a 12 percent raise. Public doctors also staged a strike over wages and working conditions. They have returned to work but are still in talks on a final settlement.
The latest strike came amid a wave of violent anti-poverty protests that shook townships across the country, as some of South Africa's poorest neighbourhoods took to the streets to demand access to electricity, water and other basic services.
About 500 people in the Masiphumelele shantytown, about 45 kilometres (30 miles) from Cape Town, protested on Thursday against their dire housing conditions. Police fired rubber bullets to break up the crowd.
Police have repeatedly had to use rubber bullets to disperse protests around the country this month as communities burned tyres and stoned police vehicles to press their demands.
Zuma has repeatedly condemned the violence, and cabinet on Thursday again warned protesters to respect the law.
"Thrashing of our cities, destruction of property and the infringement of the rights of others is an unacceptable way of highlighting grievances," cabinet said in a statement after its weekly meeting.
The strikes and protests have cast a harsh light on South Africa's failures 15 years after the end of apartheid, with more than a million South African families still living in flimsy shacks without basic services.
While the black middle class has grown and government has made strides in building homes and expanding public services, the gap between rich and poor is also growing.
Date created : 2009-07-30