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Big strike looming in South Africa

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    Nat Quinn
    Four South African labour unions took a step toward joining a strike over the government’s refusal to raise their pay by more than 3%.
    The unions, whose members include employees that provide essential services such as policing and nursing, obtained notices of non-resolution after talks aimed at breaking a deadlock in wage talks, National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union spokesman Lwazi Nkolonzi said by phone on Wednesday.
    That enables the groups to issue a strike notice after consulting their members, joining the Public Servants Association and the South African Policing Union who are scheduled to begin a strike on Thursday.
    A standoff between civil servants and the government has escalated after labour minister Thulas Nxesi last week said he was unilaterally implementing a 3% wage increase.
    Unions have demanded the state raise their pay by as much as 10%. Inflation in South Africa is currently 7.5%.
    Restraining increases in public-servant wages is pivotal to government efforts to rein in the nation’s debt, which is set to peak at 71.4% of gross domestic product in the current fiscal year.
    Compensation accounts for almost a third of state expenditure, crowding out spending on other priorities, after rising by an annual average of two percentage points above the inflation rate for the past decade.
    A broad-based strike by labour unions threatens to curtail government operations, though teachers who were at the forefront of the last major public-sector strike in 2010 have agreed to the state’s wage offer and won’t join in any labour action.
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