Johannesburg -- Thousands of South African workers have embarked on a two day strike to protest government plans to privatize state-owned enterprises.
The two day strike called by the Congress of South African Trade Unions, called COSATU, has drawn mixed support across the country. While most employers in both the public and private sectors have reported business as usual, there is strong support for the strike in some areas.
COSATU called the strike to protest government plans to privatize large state-owned enterprises in the communications, transport, and services sectors. The union federation, which claims two million members through its affiliates, says that privatization has cost 100,000 jobs since the end of apartheid in 1994.
COSATU is the largest trade union federation in the country, and along with the South African Communist Party is also a partner in a political alliance with the ruling African National Congress party. There are growing differences between the ruling party and its junior partners primarily as a result of disagreements over economic policies and health issues.
The South African Chamber of Business says about 15 percent of workers across all sectors have supported the strike. The chamber says that even at this relatively low level of support, the strike will cost workers about $45 million in wages.
The chamber adds that this loss will have a ripple effect across the economy that cannot be quantified.
COSATU disputes reports from employers of only limited support for the strike and counters that in some sectors as many as 80 percent of the workforce has heeded the strike call. The federation says overall support for the strike runs about 40 percent.
The government has launched an advertising campaign to counter COSATU's allegations of job-losses and declining standards of living. The government says it has no intention of changing its economic policies and that it will not abandon its plans to privatize state-owned enterprises.
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