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South Africa’s largest labour union plans nationwide strike over mass layoffs

South Africa’s largest labour union plans nationwide strike over mass layoffs

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South Africa’s largest labour union group, with more than a million and a half members, said on Wednesday it would stage a nationwide strike on Feb. 13 over large-scale layoffs at ailing state-owned firms and at private companies.

The decision by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) poses a major threat to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plan to revive the economy by cutting the government’s wage bill and reforming state firms that are drowning in debt and plagued by corruption.

The protests also come just months ahead of national elections, where Ramaphosa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) is likely to struggle to maintain its large electoral majority amid stubbornly high unemployment and rising poverty.

Cosatu spokesman Sizwe Pamla said threats of deeper job cuts at state power firm Eskom and at public broadcaster SABC as well as other government plans to squeeze headcounts had prompted the decision for a nationwide strike by its 1.6 million members.

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