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S Africa faces public sector strike

Hundreds of thousands of civil servants have gone on indefinite strike over pay in South Africa.

The country's teaching union, the biggest in the public sector, said all its 240,000 members walked out.

Trials were postponed as court staff joined the strike.

Unions want an 8.6% rise. The government is offering 7%. Public service minister Richard Baloyi said it cannot afford more.

"We question how a responsible (union) leadership can advocate for an indefinite strike action knowing why the demand cannot be met in this financial year, knowing the impact such action would have on the delivery of services to all the citizens of the republic, knowing the adverse effects it would have to the very members whose interests they represent," he said.

In his budget speech earlier this year, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said that after the global recession, the government needed to spend money creating new jobs, instead of giving higher wages to those already working.

He said 900,000 jobs were lost last year in a country where a quarter of the work force is unemployed.

South Africa's public service strikes are often characterised by violent protests. A strike in 2007 lasted a month.

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