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Black Workers Reach Settlement In Grocery Store Strike

May 13, 1986

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Black workers reached a settlement with a supermarket chain today and ended a six-day strike that cost the stores an estimated $3.5 million in sales.

More than 6,500 members of the Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union walked off the job Wednesday at more than 40 Pick ‘n’ Pay outlets nationwide.

The strike, which Pick ‘n’ Pay president Raymond Ackerman said cost $3.5 million in lost sales, was punctuated by a brawl between strikers and white customers in one supermarket, marches by strikers through the aisles of some stores and numerous sleep-in protests.

The Pick ‘n’ Pay strikers were seeking a raise of $45 a month. The company had offered them a $40 monthly increase, and the agreement reached today after all-night bargaining split the difference with an $42.50 raise retroactive to March 1.

The company said it had been paying its workers an average of about $216.50 a month. The minimum monthly wage in South Africa is about $151.

Most other major strikes in South Africa since black labor unions were legalized in 1979 have affected mines and heavy industry, not retail operations.

In other developments, the government introduced legislation in Parliament to give black citizens full property ownership rights, carrying out a promise made by President P.W. Botha more than a year ago.

Many blacks now are restricted to 99-year leases on property in the segregated urban areas where they live, but the legislation would allow the leases to be converted to outright ownership.

Also in Cape Town, members of a delegation from Commonwealth countries assembled to begin talks with South African officials on ways to ease the country’s racial conflict and promote negotiations with black leaders.

Speculation has focused on reported efforts by the delegation, headed by former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, to get the government to free jailed black leader Nelson Mandela and lift the ban on his African National Congress. In return, the reports suggest, the African National Congress would call a truce in its guerrilla war to overthrow the government.

However, African National Congress spokesman Tom Sebina said from Lusaka, Zambia, on Monday that the organization had not been approached about a truce and was not considering one.

Delegation members have refused to speak to reporters. The South African government also has said it will not comment publicly on this week’s talks.

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