One of South Africa’s largest state
workers’ unions has rejected a new pay offer from the government aimed at
ending a three-week strike by about 1.3 million workers in Africa’s largest
economy. NEHAWU, which has more than 200,000 members in healthcare and other
services said its members had voted down the deal.
The country’s biggest union for state workers,
the teachers’ group SADTU, has also indicated its members have rejected the
The two unions, totalling about half
a million members, are in the country’s largest federation, COSATU, and are
seen as having a major influence on the way other COSATU unions vote.
COSATU said it was suspending a
one-day sympathy strike this week by all its member unions that could have shut
mines, to give state workers more time to consider the new wage offer.
That removes some of the pressure
on President Jacob Zuma’s ruling African National Congress to reach a deal fast
or risk a massive labour action that could damage the economy.
The government may be hard pressed
to improve its offer significantly, as it has said its latest offer is well
above inflation — 3.7 per cent in July — and it cannot afford what it has
already put on the table.
COSATU has more than 20 affiliated
unions and claims nearly 2 million members.
The government offered state
workers, including teachers, nurses, customs officials and office clerks, a pay
rise of 7.5 per cent and $108.5 a month for housing. The unions are demanding
an 8.6 per cent rise and $137 a month.
COSATU has threatened a prolonged
strike by all its members, including miners and factory workers, which would
cripple the economy, if there were no resolution of the state workers’ strike.