South Africa: Public sector workers protest, demand wage increase

South Africa’s largest public sector workers union continued to protest outside various hospitals across the country on Monday. The protest, including union members in health and education, has run into its second week, with heavy law enforcement on display to monitor the rallies.

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union is demanding a 10% wage increase, while the government has offered 4.7%. Protesters have vowed to intensify their action until their demands are met.

Members of the South African Defence Force were also deployed to the Thelle Mogoerane Regional Hospital in Vasloorus to the east of Johannesburg.

According to the military, medical personnel were deployed to several public hospitals to mitigate the consequences of a strike that the government says has caused several deaths.

“We have received a request from the minister of health to assist in the face of the ongoing strike and to ensure that services operate with minimal disruption,” Phillip Makopo, spokesman for the South African army health service, told AFP.

“Military health practitioners were deployed to hospitals on Wednesday” last week and “will remain there as required,” he said.

South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla said at least four patients had died and that their deaths “can be directly attributed to the strike.”

Last week, strikers blocked access to various hospitals, preventing patients from getting to them.

Joe Phaahla said that the military was also helping to secure access to the hospitals.

On Monday morning, AFP reporters saw four soldiers positioned near the Thelle Mogoerane Hospital in southeast Johannesburg, while police officers patrolled the entrance.

The strike affecting several public hospitals began a week ago with a work stoppage by nursing and maintenance staff demanding a 10% pay rise, while the government has only agreed to a 4.7% increase.

On Monday, the courts ordered a halt to the movement, but the strikers continue to observe the strike.

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