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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: En Afrique du Sud, la grève fait payer le gouvernement

by Rosa Moussaoui

Strike Forces South African Government To Make Pay Offer

Translated Monday 6 September 2010, by Ellie Walsh and reviewed by Henry Crapo

Members were called upon yesterday by union leaders to come to a decision about government proposals, which see it ready to agree to a 7.5% increase in public sector salaries.

While waiting for the verdict of striking public sector workers who were called upon to come to a decision about the authorities’ new proposals, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) yesterday suspended its call for a solidarity strike on Thursday. The federation said it wanted to give its members time to evaluate the new offers from the government, which is now ready, under pressure from President Jacob Zuma, to give public sector workers a 7.5% salary increase (compared with 7% previously) as well as an increase in housing allowance, which will be raised to R800 (86 €).

Striking workers, who for three weeks have been demanding a salary rise of 8.6% and a housing allowance of R1000 (107 €), yesterday had to come to a decision by ballot. In a statement, the National Union of Miners (NUM, 320,000 members) maintained that they may go ahead with a twenty-four hour walk out “if a solution is not found”. At the time of writing, the ballots of hundreds of thousands of striking workers were still being counted. But whatever the outcome, the unions’ gamble will have paid off in that they have forced the government to modify those financial choices deemed too orthodox.

According to the Minister of Public Service and Administration Richard Baloyi, the additional cost of the new proposals put forward by the authorities would rise to 7 billion rand (747 million euros). “It is clear that we are going to have to borrow that money”, he explained to the Business Day newspaper. In the press, liberal analysts and commentators are already becoming alarmed at the impact of these salary rises on the national debt.

This shift also has a political cost, set against the backdrop of profound differences with regards to economic choices. This powerful social movement has aggravated the tensions between the groups which form the Tripartite Alliance (the ANC, COSATU, and the South African Communist Party) which came into being during the anti-apartheid struggle. So much so that COSATU is threatening not to support certain ANC candidates whose choices it disliked at the time of the municipal elections last year.

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