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S African security guards strike turns violent

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JOHANNESBURG, Mar 24 (Reuters) South African police used rubber bullets to disperse about 5,000 striking security guards in central Johannesburg today after a section of the crowd turned violent, a Reuters witness said.

The guards were still awaiting the outcome of talks between 13 unions representing them and and five employer organisations which was scheduled to start at 1330 hrs IST today.

''Everything was fine until about 1,000 or so went on a rampage marching against traffic and banging on cars with sticks and stones, then police started firing and arrested about six,'' a Reuters videojournalist at the scene said.

The gathering was part of a two-day strike by about 90,000 guards following months of failed wage talks with employers.

Another march by about 10,000 guards in the capital, Pretoria, on Thursday also ended violently. Several people were injured and at least one vehicle was set alight in battles between dispersing marchers and police, local media reported.

Unions led by South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) are demanding an 11 per cent increase and an additional four per cent for the lowest paid worker and paid maternity leave.

They say only 45 per cent of employers paid the minimum industry wage of 1,500 rand (236.5 dollars).

''We want money, we get peanuts ... we cannot even afford to send a single cent to our mothers and fathers every month,'' one of the guards told Reuters Television.

''We work 12 hours, spend all our lives at work ... the government should interfere because there's no economy without security,'' shouted another.

South Africa has one of the world's highest crime rates and an inefficient police force has forced companies and individuals to make private arrangements making security one of the fastest growing industries.

South Africa has around 280,000 registered guards and workers in other provinces not taking part in this week's strike would do so on Monday and Tuesday.

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