Strike Hits South Africa

In the largest labor action since apartheid ended, hundreds of thousands of public workers held a one-day strike on Aug. 24.

The action was a sharp rebuke to the newly elected African National Congress (ANC) government of Thabo Mbeki.

Twelve unions-representing over 800,000 workers-took part. They included affiliates of the Congress of South African Trade Unions-a traditional ANC ally-as well as the Federation of Unions of South Africa, which organizes many white workers.

“This is a new South African labor movement in the making,” said COSATU Gen. Secretary Zwelizima Vavi.

The workers are demanding a minimum 7.3 percent wage increase. But the ANC government, in a violation of labor law, implemented a 6.3 percent increase on its own, after bargaining had broken down.