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S.Africa Mandela museum workers strike for Christmas break

Workers at Robben Island, where South Africa’s Nelson Mandela was jailed during apartheid, went on strike Wednesday demanding a 53 percent raise and for the top tourist attraction to be closed over Christmas.

The workers want across the board increases of 3,500 rands ($439, 315 euros) to a minimum of 10,000 rands per month and for the island to close in peak tourism season from December 25 to January 2 to spend time with their families.

“It’s the salary and the Christmas break — those are the issues,” Robben Island Museum head Sibongiseni Mkhize told AFP.

The small island off the city of Cape Town is a popular drawcard and ferries people across Table Bay for a tour of where South Africa’s liberation heroes were jailed for decades by the white minority regime.

“So far everything seems to be working fine. The tours are running,” said Mkhize, saying no ferries had been cancelled as a result of the strike.

“At this stage it is manageable as we are able to send tourists to the island and there are tour guides that are there.”

National Education Health and Allied Workers Union provincial secretary Luthando Nogcinisa estimated that around 100 members of the island’s 220 staff, picketed at the ferry departure point.

“The strike is an indefinite strike, therefore it will go on for as long as management refuses to engage with the union constructively,” he said.

“They want to spend time with their families like most other people who are given leave during that time,” said Nogcinisa about the holiday break demand.

But Mkhize said shutting the island during peak season was not feasible.

“If we take ourselves seriously as a business and we do that, then it means that actually we need to reconsider whether are we part of the tourism industry or what,” he said.

“Because that’s the busiest time. That falls within our peak season.”