JOHANNESBURG, June 2 (Reuters) – Up to 4,000 nurses and administrative workers at Netcare (NTCJ.J), Africa’s biggest private hospital group, launched a strike over pay on Wednesday, affecting nine hospitals throughout the country.
The striking workers rejected an 8.25 percent wage hike from the private healthcare firm and demanded a 12 percent increment.
The strike in five provinces including Gauteng, the country’s commercial hub around Johannesburg, comes just over a week before the soccer World Cup starts on June 11.
South African hospitals have said they are prepared for medical emergencies during the month-long tournament, which is expected to attract about 350,000 foreign visitors.
“Our members are out in full force this morning,” said Johnny Harrinarain, a spokesman for the Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of SA.
Netcare, which also operates a unit in Britain, said 17 percent of its business units would be affected.
“Given current and forecast inflation rates, the 8.25 percent increase offered to staff members is considered to be both fair and reasonable,” Netcare Human Resources Director Peter Warrener said in statement.
Economists have criticised unions for using the World Cup to squeeze pay hikes far above inflation, which is currently at 5.1 percent.
The strike also comes just days after the end of a three-week strike at logistics group Transnet that paralysed ports and railways and cost the economy nearly a $1 billion. (Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng, editing by Will Waterman)