South African Government Workers March across Major Cities to Demand Higher Pay

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Negotiations between public sector unions and the government have been deadlocked, with the government resolved to unilaterally implement a 3% pay increase, which the unions are not satisfied with.

Thousands of South African government workers on Tuesday took part in nationwide demonstrations to demand a 10% increase in salary payment.

In Pretoria, one of South Africa’s three capitals, workers downed tools and marched to the offices of the national treasury to submit their demands.

On his arrival to receive the memorandum of demands, Employment minister Thulas Nxesi, a former trade unionist, was booed by the workers.

“We are here to register our complaints against the government, the sixth administration that does not take workers seriously”, Sandile Dube, a NEHAWU union official said, adding: “Government workers deserve more than the three percent. We reject the gratuity that does not add value to our pensions. That pension is the only thing that is reserved for our children.”

The government, in its efforts to stop the protests, announced a no-work-no-pay principle for workers who took part in the demonstrations. This, however, did not deter the workers from holding their demonstrations across South Africa’s major cities.

This was the second round of demonstrations after the Public Service Association, which represents over 200,000 public servants, initially declared a dispute with the government. The wage dispute has now escalated, with up to 800,000 workers rejecting the government’s pay increase.

Tholakele Zulu, a government employee, said: “We are here because we don’t want this three percent. We cannot afford petrol, we cannot afford electricity. Everything is going up but our increment does not seem to be going up.”

South Africa’s public service volatile situation is among many challenges faced by the government, including an unemployment rate of over 30%. This record was heavily criticised by the leader of the South African Communist Party.

“The government that listens only to the bourgeoisie and condemns workers does not deserve to be re-elected into office”, Solly Mapaila told protestors.

“And, therefore, how they respond to these public sector demands and workers' rights and the entire demands of the working class is the basis upon which they can lead us. But at the moment they don't deserve to lead us.”

Mike Shingange, deputy president of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, who told workers that it was unacceptable that they continue working without any increase in their pay, said the unions would continue mobilising more workers to join nationwide pickets to force the government back to the negotiation table.