JOHANNESBURG. – The South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) says the proposed National Minimum Wage Bill indicates “a ferocious declaration of war” on the working class which will “entrench poverty”. Members of Saftu and affiliated unions marched in a number of cities across the country, including Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban to protest against the proposed minimum wage of R20 an hour.
“Workers, in particular, are campaigning against a ferocious declaration of war by the ruling class of white monopoly capitalists, who are trying to get Parliament to pass new laws which will entrench poverty and threaten the workers’ constitutional right to withdraw their labour,” read a Saftu memorandum that was handed over to various government officials yesterday.
In Johannesburg, Numsa’s acting national spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said the union had joined the strike to reject government’s proposed minimum of R20 an hour.
“This government is in power today because of the suffering of the working class. We are the ones who sacrificed ultimately in order for them to make it into power. For them to negotiate R20 per hour is a betrayal of workers and their families,” she said.
“We are no longer willing to suffer high unemployment, poverty and inequality while CEOs take home fat paychecks.”
Hlubi-Majola said the unions were also voicing their concerns about government’s proposed amendments to the labour bill which “would effectively make it impossible” to strike.
“These processes are designed to frustrate trade unions so that workers never go on strike,” she said.
Saftu’s memorandum was received in Johannesburg by MEC for infrastructure Jacob Mamabolo, who confirmed that the memorandum was received on behalf of the Gauteng government.
“The demands will be attended to,” he said.
The memorandum further states that Saftu supports the calls for a comprehensive social security system.
“It is an indictment on our democracy that we have so much poverty. Workers should not be made to pay for this crisis nor should they be made to resolve a capitalist crisis,” it said.
The marches further demanded that something be done about the high levels of unemployment in South Africa.
“Why does a country with massive natural resources, a well-established manufacturing base, a solid banking system, a functional agricultural sector and a large government bureaucracy find itself in this position?” it asked.
“The National Minimum Wage Bill and the labour amendments bills are taking us to the opposite direction of a better life for all or radical economic transformation.
“They will not only maintain the current status quo but worsen it, including actually permanently postpone the dreams of the many,” the memorandum said.
In Durban, the Saftu march got underway a few hours late and moved through the coastal city peacefully.
There were very few incidents of traffic delays.
Thousands of workers affiliated to Saftu yesterday marched from Newtown Precinct Park to the City of Johannesburg, demanding a minimum wage of R12 500.
Running parallel to the national shutdown by Saftu yesterday was a bus strike that has now been going on for a full week.
South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) spokesperson Zanele Sabela said the union and its affiliates called on Transport Minister Blade Nzimande to intervene in the negotiating process.
“Unions are now in the process of facilitating intervention by Nzimande because as minister of transport he is in charge of paying subsidies to bus companies and therefore has leverage over them,” she said.
Yesterday morning, various other unrelated protests sprang up across Gauteng including in Alexandra, Zandspruit and Midrand in Johannesburg.
In the North West Province, more shops were looted in Klerksdorp and a hospital was invaded as violence continued to spread across the province over calls for Premier Supra Mahumapelo to step down.
It was reported that protesters invaded Tshepong Hospital and that patients and staff were kept behind locked doors.
“The Nehawu members that are on strike went to the hospital and some of the staff members felt intimidated.
“We have received information that they have since left the hospital,” Brigadier Sabata Mokgwabone said. – News24.