South African Strikers Sprayed With Rubber Bullets

On August 19, public workers in South Africa took to the streets in protest over wages and cost of living raises.  Police disbanded crowds in Soweto Township and in Ormonde, a suburb of Johannesburg.  As tensions began to rise amongst protesters and police, violence soon broke out in Ormonde.

While police were able to peacefully break up protesters in Soweto, they were forced to use rubber bullets in Ormonde.  Teachers in the town were protesting for wage increases as they marched to the main highway leading into town.  There were no major injuries to report, although observers did see blood coming from a police officer’s head.  Witnesses say the protesters were throwing bricks and stones at the police officers.

The unions, which represent over 1.3 million civil servants, including teachers and health workers, went on strike Wednesday.  They are at odds with the government over pay increases.  The union is demanding an 8.6% raise as well as increases in monthly housing allowances.  South African government negotiators have said that 7% is the final offer.  If no agreement can be reached, officials say they will pay the workers at that rate.  The government has also offered a housing increase of $12 from $87 per month to $95.  Unions are seeking a housing allowance of $137.

This is the second time in the past three years that civil servant Unions have gone on strike in the country.  Three years ago, public workers held a strike that forced many schools to close for several weeks.  The previous strike also caused hospitals to work understaffed for weeks

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