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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 June 2007, 09:47 GMT 10:47 UK
S Africa unions call off strike
Military personnel working in a Durban hospital
The military has been helping out in South African hospitals
South Africa's main trade unions have ended their four-week strike, which has closed most of the country's schools and hospitals.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has decided to accept the government's offer of a 7.5% pay rise - they had demanded 9%.

The government had originally offered 6%, while the unions had wanted 12%.

Correspondents say it has been the biggest strike since the end of apartheid in 1994.

Cosatu said the strike, which involved hundreds of thousands of people, had been a "historic turning point in the lives of public-sector workers".

"This combination of unity and militancy means that never again will the employer dare to treat us with the callous indifference they have displayed in the past and during this dispute, until they were forced to compromise when confronted by the militancy and determination of their workforce," it said.

Before the decision was announced, one union official told the Business Day newspaper that teachers wanted to end the strike, as school holidays had started.

Strikers in South Africa

But a Cosatu statement said that teaching unions were not prepared to sign the deal and would continue talks with the government.

On Monday, two independent unions pulled out of the strike, accusing Cosatu of being "greedy and opportunistic", saying the 7.5% offer was "fantastic".

The labour movement accuses the government of promoting big business at the expenses of poor South Africans.

BBC correspondent in Johannesburg Peter Biles says the strike has been hugely disruptive and many workers are beginning to feel the impact caused by the loss of wages.

Economists estimate that the cost to South Africa's economy could be as much as 3bn rand ($418m).

Inflation fears and resulting interest rate hikes have prompted the central bank to warn against large wage increases.


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