S. African municipal workers threaten strike ahead of polls
About 220,000 South African municipal workers will go on strike if talks with the ruling party fail, their union said as local elections loom.
"The main concern is that local government has failed us," South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) spokesman Tahir Sema told AFP.
"We have mentioned time and time again, local government is not working for our people, but our concerns have fallen on deaf ears."
Top officials from the ruling African National Congress have been locked behind closed doors with the union in an effort to avert the strike, threatened for Friday, which could cost the ruling party votes if it disrupts municipal services.
"Although this is a labour dispute we have called on a political party to intervene because they hold the key to local government finances," Sema said.
He said the union's timing was strategic ahead of the May 18 polls.
"Political parties don't listen to legitimate concerns of municipal workers. If we don't put our demands before the elections, political parties will not listen to us," he said.
The union is demanding an 18 percent salary increase but says it is prepared to negotiate. The government has offered six percent.
Sema said the union also wants President Jacob Zuma to sack Cooperative Governance Minister Sicelo Shiceka, who has been on sick leave since February.
South Africa has seen an increase in community protests against a lack of basic municipal services such as running water, electricity and housing, with voters threatening to boycott the polls.
© 2011 AFP