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Monday, August 16, 1999 Published at 16:09 GMT 17:09 UK

World: Africa

South African strikes set to spread

Miners could join the strike if talks break down

More than 10,000 South African telecommunications and postal workers have gone on strike over wages, and other unions are planning industrial action during the coming week.

The strike began after the Communications Workers' Union, CWU, failed to break a stalemate in wage talks with the partly-privatised telecommunications company Telkom, and the Post Office.

The CWU wants a pay increase of up to 14% instead of the 8.1% offered by employers.

[ image: Telephone services were not expected to be disrupted]
Telephone services were not expected to be disrupted
CWU General-Secretary Seleboho Kiti said the strike would be a "week-long action".

"The end to it will be dictated by what comes out of the talks when the employers decide to meet with us," he said.

Telkom spokeswoman Amanda Singleton said about 10,000 of out of Telkom's 59,000 workers were not at work on Monday.

She said the information desks would be hardest-hit by the strike.

Negotiations over mine strike

As the strike continued, National Union of Mineworkers officials were due to meet mine managers in talks aimed at averting a strike which the NUM has planned for Tuesday.

Gold mines have recently cut back their operations because of a plunging gold price.

"We don't believe the gold price can be used as a legitimate reason not to give miners a reasonable increase," an NUM spokesman said.

State workers threaten action

A further 12 unions are discussing plans for a one-day strike in protest at the government's decision to end wage talks covering public sector workers and to impose a pay increase which falls short of union demands.

The 12 unions represent 1.1 million government workers, including nurses, police and teachers.

Last month more than 150,000 government employees - most of them teachers - downed tools after failing to reach a wage agreement with their employers.

The strike was the first major challenge to the government of President Thabo Mbeki which took office in June, and which is forced to tread a fine line between fiscal prudence and the demands of its traditional ally, the Confederation of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).

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