ANC MPs’ anti-worker vote angers SA unions
By Staff Reporter
The fight against poverty wages and attacks on workers’ rights goes on, says the South African Federation of Trade Unions after the ruling African National Congress parliamentary majority passed a controversial minimum wage bill and ammendments to the Labour Relations and Basic Conditions of Employment Acts.
The country’s second largest labour federation, which had mobilised its members to picket at Parliament in Cape Town on Monday as the proposed laws were under consideration, charged that this vote goes to show how far the ANC, as a former liberation movement, had sunk.
“The South African Federation of Trade Unions is disgusted, though not surprised, that the ANC majority in Parliament passed the Poverty National Minimum Wage Bill and amendments to the Labour Relations and Basic Conditions of Employment Acts which will threaten workers’ constitutional right to strike,” SAFTU stated. “This vote in the National Assembly proves how far this former national liberation movement has sunk. In its 1969 Morogoro Conference the ANC declared that ‘In our country — more than in any other part of the oppressed world — it is inconceivable for liberation to have meaning without a return of the wealth of the land to the people as a whole. It is therefore a fundamental feature of our strategy that victory must embrace more than formal political democracy… Our drive towards national emancipation is therefore in a very real way bound up with economic emancipation’.”
The federation pointed out by voting for the retrogressive labour laws, the ANC had missed an opportunity to free workers from the Apartheid wage gap that kept black workers in abject poverty for years.
“Today it has voted to accept and legitimise a poverty national minimum wage of R20, R18, R15 ad R11 an hour, which even its own leader concedes is not a living wage. It has missed an opportunity to free workers from the apartheid wage gap that kept black workers in abject poverty for years. It has done nothing to slash the levels of inequality which has led to South Africa becoming the world’s most unequal society,” SAFTU outlined further. “Company CEOs who earn millions of rands demand that workers, whose labour creates their exorbitant wealth, must continue to toil for an hour to earn what they earn in a couple of seconds.
Millions of workers who have been longing for the ‘economic emancipation’ they were promised by the ANC at Morogoro are now condemned to struggling to survive and feed their families on wages that none of those who voted for this Bill in Parliament, or previously at Nedlac, would ever be prepared to live on themselves.”
The federation described all those that voted for the labour laws as capitulators to white monopoly capitalists.
“They have all capitulated to the white monopoly capitalists, whom they demagogically condemn, but refuse to do anything to force them to pay the workers a living wage. SAFTU will also continue to fight the labour law amendments which force unions, which already have to navigate a long and difficult obstacle course before they can call a protected strike, to get embroiled in even more tortuous procedures. These will shift the balance of power between business and labour even further in favour of the employers,” the statement reads. “The federation condemns those trade union leaders from COSATU, FEDUSA and NACTU who voted for these laws in Nedlac, and conspired to keep SAFTU out of this important body so that they could patch up a secret deal behind the backs of their own members and the working class as a whole, and assist the government to claim that these laws have the support of ’labour’.”
According to SAFTU, workers, including many in the so-called sweetheart federations, were angry.
“They are already seeing thousands of jobs disappearing, living standards falling and public service to poor communities deteriorating even further.
The general strike and mass marches on 25 April gave thousands the chance to vent their anger as do the swelling number of protests in poor communities.
SAFTU will now take its campaign to new levels. The Bills now have to go to the National Council of Provinces and then to the President, when the federation will again make its voice heard, to demand the repeal of these laws and for a living minimum wage of R12 500,” the federation vowed. “Then, as promised, we shall hit the streets with even bigger marches and stayaways, to protest not only against these laws, but against all the assaults on our living standards and job security and the increasing arrogance of employers, government and union leaders who, instead of ‘returning the wealth of the land to the people’ are grabbing more of it from the people.”