We’ve gotten a heavy dose of soccer and South Africa the last couple of weeks in the Confederations Cup. While the “dress rehearsal” for next summer’s World Cup went off without a hitch, the future is now looking a little shaky. South African construction workers have gone on strike, threatening the completion of stadiums around the country.
Thousands of workers at stadiums across the country put down their tools after wage negotiations deadlocked earlier this week. Workers are demanding a 13 percent pay increase while employers are offering 10.4 percent.
The strike could delay completion of flagship projects such as the Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg and stadiums in Cape Town and Durban. Other stadiums in smaller towns have also been affected.
While we can expect some higher-ups to squash this strike before it threatens the World Cup, it’s still an alarming story less than a year away from the start of the world’s biggest sporting event. FIFA deadlines require the stadiums be completed by December. But if some 70,000 workers are on strike for an extended amount of time, many of the elaborate stadiums won’t be finished.
So what happens if the strike extends deep into the summer and threatens the tournament? FIFA reportedly has a “Plan B’ in place for all of their tournaments. The United States would be among the top candidates to host the tournament on short notice, just like they did the 2003 Women’s World Cup after the China SARS outbreak. Other possibilities include Germany, the host of the very successful 2006 tournament.
While I hope this strike can be stopped quickly, I think this news underscores the problems in South Africa. I certainly think they have bigger fish to fry in their borders than hosting a giant party for the world to attend. While the World Cup would be a giant boost in tourism, I’d hate for those profits to be made on the backs of underpaid workers.