South African public service strike - September 2004

Very short account of a strike over pay of 800,000 South African public-sector workers.

Probably the biggest strike in South Africa’s history took place on September 16 2004. More than 800,000 public sector workers, including 320,000 teachers, took part in the one-day strike.

Eight public-sector unions, including those representing teachers, nurses, police officers and prison wardens, have rejected a 6 per cent pay offer, demanding a 7 per cent rise. Teachers have not had a pay review since 1996. Around 200,000 strikers took part in the 24 marches held across the country, where workers blew whistles and sang old liberation songs.

South Africa has about 1.1 million public servants, of which 990,000 are union members, and there are fears the strike could cost as much as US$30m (£16.8m). The strike is also putting pressure on the alliance between unions and the ANC government.