Workers represented by South Africa's biggest labour federation COSATU will strike on Thursday against unemployment and poverty, the union said.

Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) spokesman Patrick Craven told Reuters its 1.7m members were expected to take part in the one-day stay away which could disrupt schools, rail and harbour operations, mining and vehicle assembly plants.

Major automakers in South Africa include General Motors, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, VW and Toyota. The country is now a significant export producer of right hand drive models for the German and Japanese brands.

"It's part of a long running campaign against a high unemployment rate, which started in 1999. Unfortunately the unemployment rate remains unacceptably high and poverty is worsening," Craven told Reuters on Wednesday.

Economists reportedly said the strike would not have an impact on the economy because it was only for a day, although the vast majority of COSATU members are expected to down tools.

But they warned it could harm the country's image among international investors.

According to the report, COSATU, an alliance partner of the ruling African National Congress, argues that despite Africa's largest economy enjoying its fastest economic growth in nearly 22 years, the country's black majority remains mired in poverty.

The economy expanded 4.9% last year and by 4.5% in 2004. The government plans to accelerate the annual rate to 6% by 2010 to reduce an unemployment rate officially estimated at 26.7% and halve poverty by 2014.