South Africa strikes could end soon

The South African government has
increased its wage offer to more than a million striking public sector workers.

President Jacob Zuma had called for
fresh attempts at reconciliation as the two-week long strike has seen many
schools and hospitals grind to a halt.

After tough negotiations,
government representatives raised their pay offer to 7.5 per cent.

The unions have been demanding 8.6
per cent results of a vote on whether the new offer is accepted or not will be
known today, Wednesday.

The strike has had a crippling
affect especially on hospitals, where army medics and volunteers are caring for

Before this latest round of
negotiations, the main trade union federation, Cosatu had threatened a one-day
general strike on Thursday if the wage demand of 8.6 per cent was not met.

About a million civil servants are
already on strike, but Cosatu’s total affiliated membership is double that.

Mr Zuma’s call to revive talks was
driven by politics as much as economics.

He has been stung by criticism from
striking workers that he has been on a trade mission to China – while nurses,
teachers and other civil servants have been on the streets demanding more pay.

Analysts say the president needs to
restore relations with the unions, his key power base, ahead of a policy
conference of the major ruling party, the African National Congress, in three
weeks’ time.