JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's top public health worker union said on Wednesday it wanted a 15 percent across-the-board wage increase and would begin a series of protest marches over poor government services this week.
National Education Health & Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU), which has around 280,000 members, said in a statement there was a public health "crisis" in Africa's most developed economy because of government outsourcing.
The union also wants a 3,000 rand ($265) housing allowance for its workers as part of demands it says are aimed at reducing widespread inequality among health workers.
"Our abolition of these salary levels is informed by the urgent need to close the huge wage gap between the highest paid and the lowest paid," NEHAWU said in a statement.
"In light of a series of stories reflecting wastes and fruitless expenditures we expect that there will be enough money for the increase," it added. The union said it would present its demands to the government on Saturday.
NEHAWU is a key member of South Africa's largest labour federation, COSATU, and is seen as having a strong influence on how other unions vote.
The union made no mention of any planned strikes, a common occurrence in South Africa where unions played a major role in ending apartheid and still have political clout as part of an alliance with the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party.
The longest mining strike in South Africa's history ended in June but has hobbled the economy and any industrial action in other sectors will be a concern for investors.
Earlier this month, central bank Governor Gill Marcus reiterated her concern that recent wage demands and some settlements have not matched inflation and productivity.
Marcus said the bank's concerns related to settlements at all levels, including executive pay.
Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Stella Mapenzauswa