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Monday, June 4, 2007

Gov't unions: Don't threaten us

Striking public sector workers in South Africa warned on Monday that government threats to sack health workers would derail efforts to resolve an increasingly bitter pay dispute. Fikile Majola, secretary general of the health workers union Nehawu, said negotiations would resume on Monday in a bid to end the indefinite strike which began last Friday.

"If government fires health workers, it (the negotiation process) is not going to work. We will defend these workers," the secretary general of the health workers union, Fikile Majola, told SABC television.

Even though the government has obtained a court order that forbids doctors and nurses from taking part in the strike, many hospitals have only been able to run a skeleton service in the last few days.

Army medics had to be called in to treat patients at one of the country's largest hospitals on Sunday, Durban's King Edward VIII, after only a few doctors made it past the picket line.

The director general of the health department, Thami Mbeleku, told a press conference on Sunday that any health workers who failed to turn up to work on Monday would face the sack.

"If (for) anyone who is not at his workplace (on Monday), we would be instituting a process of termination," Mbeleku said.

He said that the directive would be handed over to hospitals and workers unions on Monday.

Public sector workers launched their strike in a bid to force the government to meet their demands for a 12% pay increase. The government has so far refused to increase their offer of 6% which is around one percentage point below the current rate of inflation.