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S. Africa Trade Group Urges Strike

May 9, 2000

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ South Africa’s biggest trade federation said it would stage a one-day general strike on Wednesday to demand minimum payments for laid-off workers and try to force the government to slow the pace of tariff reductions.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions, which claims 1.8 million members, urged nonunion members to join the strike in solidarity.

Some businessmen warned the trade federation against holding the strike.

``This is not giving an inviting message to investors. On the contrary, it is chasing them away to other investor friendly countries,″ said Jeya Wilson, head of the Chamber of Commerce in the coastal city of Durban.

The trade federation, known by its acronym as COSATU, blamed big business, which has shed jobs to streamline, for contributing to South Africa’s 42 percent unemployment rate.

``In addition to the elimination of jobs, quality jobs that pay a living wage have been replaced by casualized, sweatshop and atypical work in subcontracted ventures,″ COSATU said. ``All this is done in pursuit of maximum profits.″

``Those condemning us for raising our voices are calling on us simply to accept this as fate,″ the federation said in a statement.

COSATU is demanding that employers pay one month’s salary for each year of service to laid-off workers, that bankruptcy laws must be amended so workers get top priority in claiming the money they are owed in back wages, and wants tariffs reduced only as fast as required by international agreements, and no faster.

COSATU has about 16 affiliates whose members include workers in the catering, food, clothing, chemical, municipal, transport, agricultural and educational sectors.

Public transport is expected to be severely affected by the strike as many drivers of taxis, buses and trains are COSATU union members.

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