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Monday, July 27, 2009

South Africa:Striking workers take to the streets, Police respond with tear gas, rubber bullets

South African President Jacob Zuma waves after speaking with World Cup stadium construction workers, who had been on strike over a pay dispute.(Photo: Reuters)

South African President Jacob Zuma waves after speaking with World Cup stadium construction workers, who had been on strike over a pay dispute.
(Photo: Reuters)

Thousands of workers went on strike Monday in South Africa, marching through major cities to demand higher wages. This comes after violence and looting last week - when protestors rallied against the lack of jobs and poor public services.
Pressure is being ramped up on President Jacob Zuma after a wave of protests. During his April election campaign, he made a number of promises, including the creation of 500,000 new jobs.

After high inflation last year, many public service workers saw their purchasing power plummet, and want bigger salaries to match increases in prices. Unemployment stands at more than 23 per cent, according to official figures.

Unions representing more than 150,000 municipal workers called the strike, as thousands marched through Johannesburg, Cape Town and other major cities with 25 arrests reported in Polokwane in the north.

Dale Forbes, negotiator for the South African Municipal Workers Union, told RFI negotiations had been ongoing since May. He said the strike would continue until workers were happy with the settlement.

"The demand that we have is a 15 percent wage increase. This is based on the fact that workers suffered a negative increase in the last year and we are trying to regain some of those losses during the course of the strike," he said.

In Johannesburg, some 10,000 workers in red shirts belonging to the South African Municipal Workers Union marched through the city and chanted "bring my money," before delivering a memorandum to the mayor's office.

The ANC has condemned the unruly strikers, saying "no form of disorder or violence can resolve any wage dispute other than through negotiating forums like bargaining chambers".

Source: RFI

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