Source AP ©

South African police to stay on duty until special ruling

South Africa's labor court has ordered police to stay on the job until it issues a ruling Monday on their request to be barred from joining a nationwide public sector strike.

The South African Police Service went to the labor court earlier Friday, earning the interim order. The strike for more pay, which has crippled schools and hospitals, was entering its third week.

The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union, which has 120,000 members, had pledged to join the strike on Monday. Such a strike would be of particular concern in a country where crime rates - and concerns about crime - are high. South Africa is ranked second in the world for murders and assaults per capita, according to the latest United Nations survey.

The union had pledged to join the strike if a settlement was not be reached by the end of the business day Friday. At that deadline, the government's official wage increase offer remained at 7.25 percent while unions continued to push for 10 percent.

Federal law bars essential workers - presumed to include police and prison workers - from striking. It appeared the police service was applying to the labor court to stipulate that police fell under that law. The service posted a statement on its Web site Friday saying "any form of industrial action (on the part of police) is illegal" and could result in firings.

Police and prison union members "are public service workers. We don't believe that other workers should be waging this war on our behalf," said union spokesman Pat Ntsobi.

Negotiations between public sector unions and the government are set to resume Sunday.