A month before football’s World Cup in South Africa, workers recently on strike have been told not to strike during the tournament. On 10th May, at least 18,000 port and rail workers went on strike for higher wages across South Africa. The strike managed to slow down deliveries of goods and fuel and some passenger rail services.
Ezrom Mabyana, president of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union, told Associated Press that the nationwide strike would continue until demands for a 15% wage increase were met. The employer, Transnet, owned by the government but operating as a corporate entity, offered an 11% rise only. The company delivers thousands of tonnes of goods across South Africa every day and claims to be the largest and most crucial part of the country’s freight network.
On 17th May, around 12,000 workers from the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa walked out after negotiations over pay broke down, leaving 2 million commuters stranded. The South Africa Transport and Allied Workers Union and the United Transport and Allied Trade Union had called the strike. Workers have seen little benefit from the 177 million euros spent by the rail agency on improving its train and bus services in time for the World Cup.
World Cup organisers have called on South Africa’s strong labour movement not to strike during the tournament. However, SATAWU’s Mabyana hopes the tournament will give leverage to his union’s demands, stating that “management should also be aware that there is a World Cup coming” and ensure workers get fair deals. The spokesperson for the Congress of South African Trade Unions, Patrick Craven, also noted that “unions cannot suspend workers’ basic constitutional rights simply because a major sporting event is taking place.”