Botswana's government has told 1,478 civil servants considered essential workers they will be fired for taking part in a nationwide strike that has dragged on for more than a month, officials said Friday.
Akanyang Mmoi, a spokesman for the government's public service management office, said those served letters of dismissal included health, fire and sewage department employees.
The strike has taken a toll on medical care and led to clashes between police and angry students demonstrating over the interruption in their studies.
Komissa Burzlaff, spokesman for the Botswana Confederation of Commerce Industry and Manpower, said Friday that hospitals and pharmacies are seeing delays in getting drugs, and a slowdown in garbage collection at hospitals is posing a health hazard. Union leaders say hospitals across the country have been affected, with some doctors refusing to work despite an agreement that essential workers stay on the job.
Earlier this week, Botswana's minister of education closed state primary and secondary schools indefinitely, saying she was acting to safeguard students, staff and government property.
Andrew Motsamai, the Secretary General of the Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions, said reversing the dismissals would now be among labor's demands at the bargaining table.
Civil servants, whose last raise was in 2008, initially demanded a 16 percent increase, but have dropped that to 12 percent. The government, with income from crucial diamond exports slowed by the global recession, initially offered 5 percent, but now is offering 3 percent.
No agreement was reached in the most recent round of negotiations, on Thursday.