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Schools and hospitals braced for South Africa strike

Schools and hospitals were today making plans to prepare for tomorrow’s nationwide strike by an estimated 1.3m public sector workers.

South Africa’s education department has asked school governors to supervise children whose teachers are striking and the health department plans to call on private hospitals and the army to help if needed.

Education department teams had been organised across the country to check teachers are sticking to strike rules, and police will be on standby.

"There will be huge disruption of classes, especially for pupils who are writing their final exams in a few months time and this will have a negative effect on our attempts to turn the sector around," education department spokesperson Granville Whittle told South Africa Press Association.

The education department also wants parents to arrange study groups for their children.

The department of health meanwhile said it hoped to struggle on as best it can. "If there is a strike, we will try our level best to minimise the impact," said department spokesperson Fidel Hadebe.

In Uganda, police officers and nurses are classed as essential services and are not allowed to strike.

"Our members are fully aware that they are an essential service and are not allowed to strike," said police spokesperson Colonel Vishnu Naidoo. But, he said: "There are always contingency plans in place."

More than 1 million South African public sector union members seeking higher wages have threatened to bring the government to a halt tomorrow with a one-day nationwide strike. They have rejected the government’s latest wage offer of a seven per cent increase and a housing allowance.

Union members are aiming for an 8.6 per cent wage increase and a R1000 housing allowance, backdated to April 1. Workers at state-owned firms recently won an eight per cent wage hike.

The strike will include teachers, nurses, immigration officers, Home Affairs ministry clerks, and customs officials in an industrial action that some worry could be as bad as the 2007 strike, which brought all government departments to a standstill.

The impact of the strikes will be "severe," said South African businessman and former World Bank economist, Mutumwa Mawere. "Imagine what would happen if a teacher stops going to school? Children will be sidelined,” he told Christian Science Monitor. “This is a very unfortunate scenario."

Meanwhile, the Azanian People’s Organisation called on the government and unions to find a resolution, for the sake of the poor “who rely on the state for their well-being and services”.

Hayley attribution