Swaziland Government Goes to Court to Try to Stop Public Sector Workers' Pay Strike

The Government of the tiny southern African kingdom of Swaziland / eSwatini has applied to the Industrial Court to have a continuing public service unions' strike for more pay declared illegal.

It says the strike has gone beyond being just an industrial dispute.

Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute monarch. The kingdom is regularly criticised by international groups for the lack of workers' rights.

In the latest move the Attorney General Sifiso Mashampu Khumalo said in court documents that the strike was against 'the national interest'. He said the economy would be damaged. He claimed lives would be put in danger.

The court action is directed at the National Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU) and the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT). It was heard on Monday evening (1 October 2019). No ruling has yet been announced.

Khumalo alleged that strikers had intimidated workers and had caused violence at some schools.

Last week during a three-day national strike, police fired rubber bullets and teargas at striking public service workers, injuring at least 15. The workers were at the end of a three-day strike over cost-of-living pay rises. The violence happened in Mbabane after what local media called 'a long day of peaceful protest'.

Workers want a 7.85 percent cost-of-living salary increase. The Government says it is broke and cannot pay. Negotiations have broken down.

Before the court intervention, unions planned to 'shut down' all government departments in Swaziland's main commercial town, Manzini.

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