Millions of soccer fans tune in to the World Cup to follow their favorite team and root for their favorite players. The international event is covered by media outlets from all over the world, usually reporting on the latest updates, statistics, and the top players. However, this year a different type of striker is getting the attention of the media and the government.
This is the first World Cup to be held in Africa, and South Africa is feeling the pressure. The host country is not only trying to entertain millions of excited sports fans, but is also trying keep almost one million upset state workers at their job post and away from the picket lines.
The workers are upset over wages. Unions are threatening to go on strike if workers don’t receive pay increases. For example, the National Union of Mineworkers is demanding an 18 percent pay raise from Eskom, an electric company. If the workers do go on strike, power stations would be forced to shut down. However, the stadium themselves are equipped to generate their own electricity, a requirement of FIFA, but the thousands of fans would be far from happy waking up in a hotel with no electricity.
The labor dispute has already made its way to the stadiums. Last week, Ellis Park in Johannesburg became the fourth stadium affected by wage dispute when hundreds of World Cup stewards went on strike and had to be replaced by police. Previous to that incident, similar disruptions have occured including bus drivers in Johannesburg quitting mid-shift, leaving 1,000 fans with no transportation. Riot police have also used force in Durban, firing rubber bullets and releasing tear gas into a crowd of upset workers.
The government is accusing the unions of using the World Cup as leverage to get the pay increases they want, raises that the government say would only weaken the economy. The unions on the other hand argue that it’s just a coincidence that the World Cup is also "striker season."