South African strikes spur fears of fresh violence

AFP-JIJI

Tens of thousands of builders halted work and aircraft technicians disrupted air traffic Monday in the latest strikes to hit South Africa, fanning fears of new violence.

Around 90,000 construction workers embarked on an indefinite strike demanding a 13 percent pay increase, against employers’ offer of 6 percent.

Two people were reportedly stabbed during a workers’ protest in Johannesburg’s plush suburb of Sandton, police said.

The South African government warned the strikers to stay “within the ambit of the law,” threatening to act against “those that contravene the country’s laws.”

Violent labor disputes last year claimed over 50 lives at South Africa’s platinum mines, including 34 miners shot dead by police in one day at Lonmin’s Marikana mine.

Now, as construction workers down tools, union federation Cosatu said employers can well afford generous pay increases.

Earlier in the day 1,300 aircraft maintenance technicians launched a stay-away at the country’s airports.

They are demanding a 12 percent pay rise, according to South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union spokesman Vincent Masoga.

Meanwhile, as many as 30,000 automobile workers have been on strike for a week.

They will decide Wednesday whether to call off the strike following a revised offer from some of the world’s leading carmakers that have plants in South Africa.