Wednesday, June 20, 2007

It is Not Colour - It is Class

On June 1st South African public sector workers staged the largest strike since apartheid . It involves 17 unions, including teachers, nurses and other civil servants. The government has mobilised army medics as strikebreakers in hospitals. Soldiers are also doing the work of non-medical hospital staff, including porters, cleaners and cooks. The government secured court orders to widen the legal definition of “essential workers” so as to deny around 300,000 of the country’s more than 1 million public servants the right to strike. Many nurses, doctors and health workers have defied the orders.
The government sacked 638 health workers who had not returned to work.

Thulas Nxesi, general secretary of the 220,000-strong South African Democratic Teachers Union, told workers at the June 13 Johannesburg rally, “Any injury to one is an injury to all. Dismiss one, dismiss all!”

A report published by the South African Institute of Race Relations demonstrated that the living conditions for millions of South Africans have worsened since the ending of apartheid 13 years ago. Official unemployment currently stands at 26 percent, but the real figure is 41 percent—double what it was 10 years ago. Millions of workers earn less than US$150 a month, and 4 million people are living in conditions of extreme poverty, defined as less than US$1 a day.

President Thabo Mbeki gets a 57,3% pay rise, taking his total package from R1,1-million to R1,8-million annually. Members of Parliament receive a total of R650,000 annually.

Yet a miserable 6% wage increase originally offered to public sector workers .

The police union Popcru and the South African Police Service are in a legal battle on whether the police and correctional services personnel may join the strike.

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