ALL Africa report: After 21 days of strike, hundreds of thousands of South African public sector workers have returned to work.
However, this is only a suspension of the strike, civil servants' unions said, refusing the government's offer to increase employee salaries 7.5 percent and give a grant of 800 rands to cover housing costs. The unions demanded a wage increase of 8.6 percent and a 1,000 rands in housing subsidy.
According to Fides, the unions have given themselves 21 days to finalize an agreement in principle with its members to end the dispute over wages that has caused massive disruption of public services. The union protest has paralyzed schools and hospitals, particularly amongst the poorest families who cannot afford private transport.
There were also incidents of violence to prevent workers who do not join the strike from going to work. In some cases, even the hospitalized were left unattended. It is a situation that has caused deep concern in the Catholic Church of South Africa.
To overcome the lack of personnel, the government sent 4,000 soldiers into the country's 62 public hospitals to provide medical assistance, security, and cleaning.