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World Cup Fanfare Brings Demands To The Surface

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Special to the NNPA from the GIN –

(GIN) – With thousands of World Cup revelers thronging the streets of South Africa, and all eyes riveted on the games, labor unions are seizing the time to push normally reluctant employers to raise their low wages and provide needed benefits.

Tuesday, hundreds of black-clad workers gathered just outside the stadium grounds around midday, chanting and dancing, as grim-faced riot police, toting shotguns, looked on.

Earlier in the week, workers walked off the job in Cape Town and Durban, and bus drivers in Johannesburg quit in the middle of their shifts Monday, stranding about 1,000 fans outside Soccer City stadium. On Sunday, riot police using rubber bullets broke up one demonstration by striking workers in Durban, injuring two.

South African Transport and Allied Workers Union coordinator Mzwandile Jackson Simon said it appeared that wage promises made to the striking workers were not kept.

"To the millions of our workers and the poor, their problems are much bigger than the World Cup and they will never surrender their genuine struggles for a living wage in the interests of appeasing ... visitors to our country," a spokesman for the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) said.

Meanwhile, some 16,000 workers at the electric power company Eskom, many of whom live in shacks without electricity, could go on strike later this week. The workers are seeking wage hikes of 18% and a housing allowance. The company is offering 5%.

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