September 15th, 2010
02:35 PM GMT
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The strike that crippled South Africa’s hospitals and schools is no longer in the headlines, but it’s not over yet.

The public servants strike was suspended after three weeks of teachers, nurses and hospital workers staying away from work.

There is no resolution yet to the pay dispute, just a limbo of uncertainties as unions say they are working out a draft wage agreement with the government.

The unions say they have won a victory because the government failed to crush the strike, but in reality the biggest losers were the striking workers, say economists.

Although South Africans have a constitutional right to strike, they do so with a no work, no pay caveat, so after nearly 20 days on the picket line many of the strikers were much worse off financially than they were before the strike.

Economists calculate that striking teachers and nurses have lost about 5% of their annual salary.

Do you think it was worth it?

Filed under: BusinessMarketplace Africa

soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Peter

    Worth It?... The reality within the South African context is that most of the labour force that went on strike (app 80%) do not have the intellectual capacity to comprehend the financial impact of their actions... they only see the physical (real) cash-in-hand issue that they supposedly fight for... If I, as employer, am willing to pay R750 and you, as worker, demand R860, I up my offer to R800... That is R800 (in cash within this scenario)... all will accept it, nut they do not realise the long-term effect of the loss of 20 days... It technically puts them worse-off than before the strike... Now I ask you, with tears in my eyes, what are we supposed to do... these are the people that have been forced into management positions without the know-how, just because of the colour of their skin!

    September 16, 2010 at 6:52 am |
  2. kolobe

    not sure what peter is on about because fnb(bank) indicated in south africa blacks were more educated than whites even though they earned less. so saying the blacks here do not have the intellectual capacity is short of being a worm brain. the world(mostly UK) uses south african nurses anyway. peter sounds like a bitter afrikaner who are world famous for being racists

    September 16, 2010 at 9:36 am |
  3. Grace

    What are you supposed to do? You, Peter, are supposed to realise Apartheid for what it was. You are supposed to try and make a difference where you are for South Africa, if you really want a feasible future for the people here. You are supposed to look down on intellectual snobbery and try to help the poor and defenceless, not judge them for being ignorant. You are supposed to realise that not even the best of intentions and actions will mean that you see meaningful change before you die, but you are supposed to perform meaningful change that will last beyond your death.

    I hope I have answered your question?

    September 16, 2010 at 9:53 am |
  4. Tyler

    kolobe says:
    "south africa blacks were more educated than whites?"

    kolobe, please provide us with a link to that one.

    Below are the actual statistics. It's not racism – it's called reality.

    "Among the South African population, only 14% of blacks have an education of high school or higher, whereas 40% of Indians and 65% of Whites have an education of high school or higher."


    September 16, 2010 at 12:17 pm |
  5. Andre

    Kolobe, frankly I thought Peter's comment wasn't all that appropriate, but you just infuriated me. In implying that all Afrikaners are bitter racists you are perhaps the one who require some introspection on your views of the rainbow nation.

    Heck you are on such a roll, why stop at that? Maybe you should chant that all Germans are Nazis and that all Americans are slave traders?

    Also, if Peter was Afrikaans, his name would probably have been spelled Pieter and not Peter.

    Get a grip and move into the 21st century with us Afrikaners, who are just trying to make a living and provide for our families.

    September 16, 2010 at 12:42 pm |
  6. Joe

    Wow some comments you guys are making. I understand the frustration from both sides. However, maybe if try to come up with solutions to the problems that are facing us and threatening our democracy, instead of resorting to Peter/Peter commenting.

    1. Intellectual capacity : Definitely yes. A public strike does not just happen out of the blue. It comes as a result of long negotiations and a series of consultations. To suggest that one million workers are not intellectually capable is a little narrow minded and perhaps shows lack of intellectual capacity on its own.

    2. 14% of Black makes 5,6 million of educated individuals, as opposed to the 40% of Indians making 800 thousand, and 65 % of white making just 3 million. Bare in mind that these so called Blacks were subjected to inferior education, amongst other thjings for hundreds of years so that we may have these misconstrued statistics to begin with. If there was no apartheid, I bet the number of educated Blacks would be much higher.

    3. Racism : Still very much alive I'm afraid. The fact that apartheid is no longer the rule of law does not mean that it has magically been wiped out of the minds of those who benefited from it. Not all Afrikaners are racists but the majority of tem still are. Most of them still enjoy first class citizenship and they are not simply gooing to let go of that superior complex life they are used to. The only hope we have is to rather teach our kinds that although there are differences, all races are equal, and teach then racial tolerance and compassion. While we’re at it, we might as well teach our black kids to be entrepreneurs, engineers, lawyers, accountants and doctors. Maybe we may eventually end up with a society that has real EQUITY.

    September 16, 2010 at 2:50 pm |
  7. Bart

    14 % of a majority may be more then 65 % of a minority, in absolute terms.

    But to get to the core:
    Public servants are really not supposed to strike, because they hold both a special power position (hospitals, school, law enforcement), which means their strikes have more damaging power to society. This strike should therefore have been stopped by court.

    September 16, 2010 at 3:52 pm |
  8. Phila

    Peter why do you put R800 from R750 if you can put R860. You are weeping, say you are joking do you think the world care about you Apartheid brother. Who is forcing people into management ? While it is hardly so hard for a black guy to get a promotion in a white dominated company in South Africa forget about a decent salary. Even today according to you Nelson Mandela will still not be ready to be president. Black don't have a "know-how" how typical ?. Weep maybe the Americans can give you asylum.

    September 16, 2010 at 4:28 pm |
  9. Amara Moosa

    Definitely. Thou the purpose of the strike was for a pay increase, the true benefit of the strike is the confidence and power gain from exercising that right. If people have rights and do not use such rights, then it makes no sense to have it in the first place. Despite the fact that most of the striking workers have lost about 5% of their annual salary, they still gain from knowing that, they can alway exercise thier right to strike. In economics, this will be the economic benefit which cannot be quantify.

    September 16, 2010 at 6:26 pm |
  10. Jaco Geldenhuys

    Go Andre!

    September 17, 2010 at 6:39 am |
  11. kolobe

    lets not act like we dont know the situation in south africa.blacks moved into democracy like apartheid never occurred. there is still financial apartheid in south africa (91%of mine wealth in 9% of the population) and we know afrikaners are more famous for apartheid more than they are for rugby.we know you like going around the world spreading rubbish about south africa,predicting civil wars and country are wrong south africa will be stronger without you

    see links below

    September 17, 2010 at 7:37 am |
  12. Andre

    Kolobe, honestly. You are the one spreading rubbish on a CNN blog about fellow South Africans.

    Blah, blah, blah.... Maybe you'll believe yourself if you keep on jabbering this crap. Yet fact of the matter is, ALL South Africans are needed to make OUR country a better place for all.

    You angry, silly little person....

    September 17, 2010 at 2:10 pm |
  13. kw6238b

    Amara has it. Peter and his accolades who equate a piece of paper - i.e. a degree - with wisdom have little themselves. Workers always lose money over the short run when they strike, and people like Peter and whoever wrote this idiotic article, who can't see very far into the distance, are left scratching their heads. (More likely the writer is just attempting to give the strikers a little jab, and is doing so in a backward, cowardly way). But if workers never struck, and continued to lose power and confidence, and salary, the logical end of that would be we all end up working for nothing. Globally, wages have not increased since the 1970s, when inflation is taken into account, and labor has been in retreat all that time. But workers everywhere are now aware of the courage of the South African workers, and have learned from them and are encouraged by them and now are more apt to take similar work actions of their own, and so it's not only for their own benefit that workers strike. Those of you who see everything in terms of personal gain, and never in terms of how you can help others, will never be able to understand that.

    September 21, 2010 at 6:37 am |
  14. alexa

    as a south african who lives here,just to inform those who dont know we have something called BEE,black empowerment which is essentially racism in reverse,as employment is based on color ,not qualification,sad,but true.the university of cape town doesnt allow white students in unless they have over 90percent aggregate,
    who looses out in the long term,i ask you.the people who are at the receiving end of services.
    nurses are not supposed to leave dying babies that are under their care,and what for,a couple hundred bucks.also,who is going to pay for all these increases,certainly not the very fat cats of the anc,as they are driving r1million carsetc.

    September 22, 2010 at 11:44 pm |
  15. TONY

    I am a Nigerian living in Dublin. Quite interesting to read up these arguments to and fro about citizens of one country. Very dissapointed with the tone of some bloggers. But i think Joe's point is quite clear and all should read it. Andre also made interesting point about afrikaneers also struggling to make ends meet. Pls u all should sheath your swords for WE ARE ALL ONE PEOPLE, WITH ONE COMMON GOAL: TO PROVIDE FOR OURSELVES AND OUR FAMILIES AND TO HAVE EXTRA TO TAKE CARE OF OUR NEIGHBOURS!!!.

    September 24, 2010 at 12:38 pm |
  16. Pinky

    It is pretty sad that people are trying to stand up for what they believe in and are worst off. It is even more sad that the South African government let things become so bad that people have to go to such extremes to survive.

    No one can judge any of the people that was part of the strike because with such a corrupt government that should look after it's people and set an example what does anyone expect from people who are poor and desperate.

    A country with a corrupt foundation will never survive. Look at most of the African countries and most recently Zimbabwe.

    The only way to stop the government is to stand up against them and say out loud what you believe in and fight for it. STAND TOGETHER AND YOU WILL BE MORE POWERFUL!!!!!!!

    Our freedom and freedom of speech is what makes life worth living for.

    Maybe instead of complaining about strikes help them and the problem will be solved faster.

    September 25, 2010 at 8:46 am |
  17. Darby

    Judging from the English language used in nearly all of these blogs, I begin to wonder if anybody is educated in South Africa. Apalling. So what language do they teach in South Africa?

    September 27, 2010 at 12:27 am |
  18. Peter D

    Guys guys guys. The Imbociles in charge of unions are (like) politicians and must APPEAR to give a @^@& about their members. They have this act every year and just rent a crowd to mingle with striking workers and INTIMIDATE those willing to work. It is time our pathetic government charged UNIONS the cost of cleaning up trashed cities and pay for damaged property when their half breeds go on the rampage. Clowns like "uncle Patrick", Nzimande etc are not fools but good actors acting (like politicians) in their OWN interest.
    Make no mistake, ANY govermnent, anywhere in the word, is a bunch of powerful, greedy and corrupt individuals who care not for us ....
    Our ANC will be in power forever like the greedy asses who controlled 50 years of, practically, socalist rule and left the new dispensation with a crumbling infrastructure which has now broken up.
    THANKS NP for statrting the ROT and ANC for letting it get to this....

    September 29, 2010 at 7:38 pm |
  19. mjs

    South Africa's curse.......................

    September 30, 2010 at 11:09 am |
  20. Me

    @Darby. They teach 11 different languages. For most of us, English is a second language. Do you have a second language you can speak well enough to conduct a political debate in? Like a lot of uneducated Saffers, I speak 3 languages fluently, and can talk about the weather, ask for directions, etc, in a fourth. You?

    Back to the point... @Amara Moosa, yes, workers should exercise their right to strike, but the unions are taking advantage of them just like their employers (the government, aka the ANC) did. In the long run, the workers really did lose money, while the Cosato gained political power. The whole strike had nothing to do with pay increase, it was about Cosato sending a message to Zuma for not living up to the promises he made when they made him ANC President, and by extension, President of South Africa. If the workers want justice, they should strike from striking, to send a message to the union leaders that they will not be the disposable pawns used in the Alliance leader's infighting.

    October 1, 2010 at 9:13 am |

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