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Municipal workers in South Africa are celebrating important gains after a three-week nationwide strike that at times was brutally repressed.

Major improvements were won in wages, with lower paid workers winning the greatest gains.

“This agreement is a victory for the mass of our members that went on strike,” said Dale Forbes, a negotiator with the South African Municipal Workers’ Union. “Just last week the employers’ group was refusing to talk to us, but they forgot their stance as the continued pressure of our members began to take its toll.”

Four strikers were killed and hundreds were injured and arrested as police attacked picket lines and evicted workers who had occupied employers’ offices.

Some observers say the employers deliberately provoked and prolonged the strike, trying to break SAMWU, which has been the main opponent to privatization.

Meanwhile in Britain, 750,000 municipal workers, members of UNISON, walked off the job July 17 in a one-day national protest. Municipal offices, schools, libraries, social services and recreation centres were closed to put pressure on employers to increase their wage offer – and to put pressure on the Blair government to increase funding to local authorities.

A strike by workers on London’s subway system that began July 15 continues, shutting down the London Underground and causing havoc in the city. This dispute arises from plans to privatize a portion of the subway system.