World Cup strike spreads to half of venues

Johannesburg: Security stewards angered over low pay expanded their strike to five of the World Cup`s 10 stadiums, forcing police to take over their duties in a bitter counterpoint to the generally festive tournament.

South African Police Services said it deployed about 1,000 extra officers in and around Johannesburg`s Ellis Park to guarantee security for the night match between Brazil, one of tournament favorites, and North Korea yesterday.

On a day that carried winter`s bite in this Southern Hemisphere nation, hundreds of stewards and security guards dressed in their black uniforms sang, whistled and chanted for more pay outside the stadium.

"Everywhere we go, we have rights," they sang as armed police kept watch but did not interfere. Later, bundled in knit caps and gloves, many of the strikers huddled in the raw wind and temperatures just above freezing, waiting for news about negotiations.

Police also took over security at stadiums in Durban, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, where Portugal and Ivory Coast played to a 0-0 draw yesterday.

Several hundred guards also walked off the job at Soccer City, the main World Cup stadium on Johannesburg`s outskirts.

There was no match there; its next game will be Thursday.

At issue is a wage dispute between the mostly black stewards and Stallion Security Consortium, a private, black-run company hired by World Cup organizers to provide stewards for five of the 10 venues. No wage problems have surfaced among stewards hired for the other five stadiums by South Africa`s largest security company, Fidelity.

A woman who answered the phone at Stallion`s Johannesburg office said company officials had gone to Ellis Park for a meeting about the dispute. No details of any negotiations were made public.

The dispute comes against a backdrop of jitters about security for the monthlong tournament and numerous examples of screening for journalists and VIPs that has been more lax than at other major sporting events.

The strikers said they were being offered from 126 rand (USD 16.50) to 190 rand (USD 25), for 12- to 15-hour shifts. They were demanding at least 450 rand per day (USD 59).

Strikers accused the security company of mistreating them, feeding them only one meal during their shifts. They said many were unable to get home after getting off work late in the evening and were spending the night at bus and police stations in the frigid cold.


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