We call on workers not to go to work on Friday – COSATU

Federation says govt and big business must realise workers will push back and fight against exploitation

COSATU calls on all workers to withdraw their labour and join the strike on Friday

5 October 2016

The Congress of South African Trade Unions is calling all South African workers to prepare for battle in our fight to achieve decent work. We are reiterating our call for South African workers ,to join millions of other workers across the world to mark the International Day for Decent Work on Friday, 07th October 2016. The struggle for decent work is not an event but it’s ongoing, and the 7th October is a day chosen by workers internationally, as a day where there will be simultaneous activities based on the burning issues affecting workers in various countries.

According to the ILO -  World Employment Social Outlook trends for 2016 report titled “ transforming Jobs to end Poverty “it shows that in 2015, the number of unemployed people in the world reached 197.1 million – approaching 1 million more than in the previous year and over 27 million higher than pre-crisis levels. This increase in the number of jobseekers in 2015 occurred mainly in emerging and developing countries.

The report also shows that vulnerable employment accounts for 1.5 billion people, or over 46 per cent of total employment in the world. In both Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, over 70 per cent of workers are in vulnerable employment. As well as having limited access to contributory social protection schemes, workers in vulnerable employment suffer from low productivity and low and highly volatile earnings. There are also significant gender gaps in job quality. Women face a 25 to 35 per cent higher risk of being in vulnerable employment than men in certain countries in Northern Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab States. 

The central focus in South Africa will be the economy and jobs as manifested in the continued rising costs of living ,which mainly affects workers. Amongst the issues we will be tackling in this context will be a demand for accessible, affordable, safe and reliable public transport and the immediate scrapping of E-tolls  .Over and above this, we will be raising the demand for the total banning of labour brokers as a form of modern day slavery. This will also include a demand that the economic and labour market chapter in the national development plan should be overhauled now!.

COSATU is concerned about the replacement of the commitment to developing integrated public transport networks by e –tolls. We   are following up on reports ,which points to the fact that e –tolls have been overpriced by a whopping 321% ,when compared to road construction pricing systems around the world

While, South Africa has a multi-faceted public transport system; it is not well coordinated. The fragmentation of transport services in the country means that workers continue to spend more than 20% of their income on transport. It is unacceptable that the tax payers money is spent to cater the comfort of the elite ,such as the building and expansion of Gautrain, including the construction of bicycle lanes all over the country particularly ,where the white elite resides.

COSATU reiterates its position that the public transport system should be well coordinated and integrated. In our view, this is crucial for enhancing local economic development and eliminating the apartheid spatial challenges.

Workers should know that this is a legally protected strike under Section 77 of the Labour Relations Act, meaning that the federation has done all the necessary arrangements applying for the protection of all workers at Nedlac. All employed South Africans, with the exception of emergency workers, are permitted to take a day off on Friday; and join a strike without any fear of victimization. We are also calling for workers, who are being intimidated by employers to go and report to the nearest COSATU offices. .

The federation is happy with the response from the workers ,and we can safely say that workers are ready to send a clear message to both government and big business that the status quo is unacceptable. This march will be about demanding that employers deal with the economic and employment crisis or face the wrath of the workers. If the South African economy fails to work for the workers, workers will ensure that it does not work for anyone.

These activities are a continuation and intensification of what will become a long and protracted struggle to achieve decent work for South African Workers.  We demand the fundamental transformation of the economy that will result in the creation of decent jobs and quality public services.  We are unwavering in our demand for income opportunities for women and men; and the protection of our right to strike as enshrined in our Constitution.

The investment strike by big business is both dishonest and unacceptable because they are the beneficiaries of policies, resources and the labour of this country. Their decision to repatriate profits and stash them in tax heavens demonstrate their lack of developmental consciousness.

Government is running out of time to construct a developmental state that will be based on the developmental tasks, which are in line with the strategic objectives of the National Democratic Revolution.  We want government to effect and impose radical economic transformation through decisive state intervention in the economy. They must decisively intervene in the economy to redistribute resources in order to address the triple crisis of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

The workers lives are getting worse as a result of the structural fault-lines in the economy that we inherited from our colonial and apartheid past. We reject the disastrous neoliberal policies perpetuated by our government that have seen workers faced with mass unemployment, widespread poverty and widening inequality. Workers expect government to encourage and incentivize investors to put in more resources in the job intensive areas of the economy. We need a more effective deployment of all state levers to advance industrialization and the creation of decent work on a large scale. 

The dramatic increase in casual and part time forms of employment is alarming and workers are tired of empty promises and the indecisiveness from government. We plan to continue with this campaign for decent work, especially against labour broking; as part of the federation’s broad and ongoing Jobs and Poverty Campaign that was launched in 1999.

We call on workers not to go to work on Friday; they must withdraw their labour and join the planned activities all around the country. Let us send a clear message to government and big business that we are ready to push back and fight against exploitation and in addition to two main issues, we shall also be raising the following issues

- Demand the total banning of the labour brokers.

- Fight in defence of our Jobs and against retrenchments.

- Demand the implementation of the Legislated National Minimum Wage.

- Fight to defend and protect our Collective Bargaining Agreements.

- Fight for compliance with Occupational Health & Safety Standards in all workplaces.

- Fight for the implementation of the NHI.

- Fight for the scrapping of the Taxation Amendment Law.

- Demand the implementation of Free Education.

Whitey Basson salary of R100m

The federation has noted with revulsion the obscene and vulgar amount of money that was paid to Shoprite’s CEO, Whitey Basson, who was paid over R100m in the year to June 30 2016. COSATU denounces this payment because Shoprite is paying Mr Basson for his excellent work in exploiting workers on behalf of shareholders. Shoprite’s strong growth including its expansion into Africa, has been carried by the thousands workers ,who are paid slave wages and forced to work even during non trading holidays. While Mr Basson is being rewarded with over R100m; many workers at Shoprite have seen a reduction in incomes, benefits and job security. The same people, who are defending the exorbitant and vulgar payment to Mr Basson expect workers to moderate their wage demands and sacrifice for the economy by accepting poverty wages. It is this arrogance and hypocrisy that will worsen the industrial relations in this country and lit up the fire that will be difficult to snuff out.  Workers will no longer tolerate slave wages and working conditions suitable for servants, while the senior executives like Mr Basson are living like medieval aristocrats.

Higher Education Stakeholder Summit

COSATU welcomes the outcomes of the Higher Education and Training stakeholder summit that took place in Johannesburg on 3 October 2016, to try and find a common position on the prevailing crisis on university campuses in the country. The federation harshly condemns the acts of violence and destruction to property that are taking place in universities across the country. We support any attempts to get long-term solutions to student funding and we appreciate the efforts from government to resolve this issue of higher education funding.

While we acknowledge government’s intervention ,we are puzzled by the lack of political will on the side of government to introduce a wealth tax that will focus on the biggest companies and the highest-income earners to fund education. Government needs to recover its lost fortitude and listen to the people or risk alienating the people, who voted for it on the understanding that it was going to provide free education for the poor. We demand that the rich must come forward and take responsibility for the funding of free education. Now is the time for our government to be decisive and introduce policy measures that will effect radical economic transformation, which in our view is a pre-requisite towards the achievement of Free Education for student from the working class and the poor background. 

We demand that government should introduce policy measures that will give it more capacity to intervene and provide  funding for free education including prioritising funding poor institutions. Strategic nationalisation will help address three things a) stimulate economic growth, b) to determine the strategic direction of the economy and c) to enlarge available resources


COSATU is disturbed by the crisis at SABC, where the organisation has been plagued by seemingly intractable governance crises at the level of the Board and management. The apparent defiance campaign by the board and the management has eroded the credibility of both in the eyes of the citizens.  We are calling on them to abide by the court rulings and perform their duties within the ambit of the law by implementing the court recommendations.

The SABC Board is guilty of allowing the public broadcaster to be abused for factional political purposes even though the public broadcaster is supposed to operate independently from all major vested interests including party political, factional and business interests. We are calling on the SABC to adhere to scrupulous good corporate governance practices and principles and also call on the board and management to play their respective good governance roles.

ANC NEC’s call for Lifestyle audits

The decision by the ANC NEC to conduct lifestyle audits on all its senior leaders accused of irregularities and those deployed in senior positions in the government and state-owned entities, is a welcome development and long overdue

We hope this decision will be implemented unlike the decision on the integrity commission that was stifled, watered down and ultimately abandoned. The present situation is untenable and unsustainable for the ANC and only a radical overhaul of the ANC internal processes and the radical implementation of self corrective measures will stop the decline and deterioration that we are seeing. The movement needs to take responsibility and implement this decision for its own sake and survival.

Attacks directed at NUM members at Sibanye Gold's Cooke mine

COSATU is disturbed and angered by the attacks directed by NUM members at Sibanye Gold by AMCU members that have left four workers injured. We are calling for calm in the mine and for police to apprehend the perpetrators. We are worried by the failure of law enforcement agencies to apprehend and prosecute those, who are killing NUM members and perpetuating violence in the mining sector. COSATU is committed to peace amongst workers and we condemn violence, warlordism and intimidation from any quarter and strongly support the principle of Freedom of Association, especially for the working class. Membership of any union or any party should never cost a life. We call on all union leaders to be responsible and to stop promoting divisions amongst workers, while employers are enjoying profits from the very workers whose families have now been robbed of their only breadwinners.

Issued by Sizwe Pamla, National Spokesperson, COSATU, 5 October 2016