- The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has finally accepted to nail the deadlock over salary increase.
Cosatu has also called off the four-week strike, which has halted operations in most of South African schools and hospitals. The strike has been described as the biggest since the African National Congress (ANC) took over power in 1994.
Union leaders had previously rejected the government’s 6% offer, insisting for 12% increase, which according to them will enable their members to meet the rising inflation and high cost of living in South Africa.
Central Bank officials warned against huge wage increase, fearing that it might result to inflation and hikes in interest rates.
After weeks of negotiations, Cosatu has now accepted the government’s 7.5% increase.
Before the deal was reached, two independent unions quitted the strike action after they accused Cosatu of being “greedy and opportunistic because the 7.5% offer is fantastic.” It was also reported that striking workers have started feeling the pinch of being without wages for weeks.
In a statement, Cosatu said teachers unions would continue the talks with the government before they sign the deal.
The main union scolded the government of promoting big business at the expense of poor citizens.
According to economists, the strike cost South Africa at least US $$418 million.
Cosatu described the strike as a "historic turning point in the lives of public-sector workers.”
"This combination of unity and militancy means that never again will the employer dare to treat us with the callous indifference they have displayed in the past and during this dispute, until they were forced to compromise when confronted by the militancy and determination of their workforce.”
President Thabo Mbeki told delegates of the ANC conference that the road to resolving the social and economic problems of South Africa is still very long.
“Objectively and practically, it is not possible to solve problems that have accumulated over 350 years in mere 13 years of our democracy”, President Mbeki told delegates in Midrand, Johannesburg.
“The task is to try to define what the future of our country will be during the five-year period leading to the centenary of our movement in 2012. The task is to try to define what the quality of life of the masses of our people will be.”
He said delegates should also set the stage for bridging the socio-economic inequalities among South Africans. Mbeki wondered why distribution of wealth in South Africa is still far from being equal, despite the economic successes.
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