NATIONAL NEWS - Today’s nationwide strike called by the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) will be a test of strength for the relatively new federation, and if it’s successful, will give them bragging rights over the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).
According to a political analyst, a successful strike would allow Saftu to go into the upcoming workers’ May Day celebrations with the right to claim they are the federation that now truly has the concerns of workers at heart.
The strike is the result of an objection to the proposed national minimum wage of R20 per hour and proposed changes to the Labour Relations Act and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, which they say will curtail the rights of workers, including the right to strike.
The strike is also linked to Saftu’s campaign to be recognised by the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac), which negotiated the minimum wage and labour law amendments.
National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi said Saftu opposed the minimum wage as it’s “a very low wage and it is not designed with workers and their families in mind. No one can raise their family with dignity on R20 per hour”.
Hlubi added: “We reject it because since the dark days of apartheid workers have been fighting for a living wage and equality.”
She said the union rejected the claims that businesses would suffer if this threshold was raised, as SA executives earn massive salaries compared to workers.
“SA leads globally for the widest gap between workers and CEOs. They earn R69 000 per day or R8 600 per hour. Companies can clearly afford to pay more.”
Cosatu reiterated yesterday that they would not participate in today’s strike. Cosatu supported the proposed minimum wage and was party to the Nedlac negotiations where it was agreed upon.
Hlubi said: “Cosatu leadership has failed workers miserably by agreeing to these backward proposals. In February 2016, Cosatu’s Sizwe Pamla rebuked the department of labour for trying to change the labour laws to limit the right to strike.
“Two years on they have struck a deal with the devil in the guise of Cyril Ramaphosa to sell out workers. They will never have to suffer the indignity of depending on R20 per hour to survive, but they are happy to do this to their members.”
Political analyst Dr Somadoda Fikeni said the strike could show Saftu was a viable alternative. But Cosatu’s credibility would not necessarily be permanently damaged.