COSATU leader tells government to listen to union demands or face the results at the polls next year

Union members march in cities across the country on Thursday

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Members of unions affiliated with the Congress of SA Trade Unions (COSATU) marched in Cape Town as part of a nationwide action on Thursday. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

Hundreds of public sector workers and other members of unions affiliated with the Congress of SA Trade Unions (COSATU) marched through the streets of major cities on Thursday. They are demanding that the government urgently address rising unemployment rates, wage cuts and inequality, and attacks on collective bargaining, among other things.

The unions are also demanding the government implement the recommendations of the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.

In Cape Town, more than 100 people marched, holding up posters reading, “We demand an end to gang violence in our areas”, “Pay us danger allowance now” and “No to rise in fuel prices” on their way from Hanover Street to the provincial legislature and then to Parliament.

Kenny Williams, of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU), said schools in poor Western Cape communities are still battling with overcrowding and lack of resources.

“We’ve marched about these issues in the past and had protests. It’s clear that this government does not care about the poor,” he said.

Protesters became restless after waiting outside the legislature for about 30 minutes for Reagen Allen, MEC for Community Safety and Police Oversight, to collect their memorandum. When no one from Allen’s office came out, COSATU provincial secretary Malvern De Bruyn said they would take the matter up with the Office of the Premier.

When the group got to Parliament, Gcina Matakane, advisor in the Speaker of the National Assembly’s office, was there to receive the memo. He promised to give it to the Speaker, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

Marchers in Johannesburg included members of POPCRU, NEHAWU and the NUM. Photo: Chris Gilili

In Johannesburg, marchers included members of the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU), the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU), the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU), and the South African Commercial Catering and Allied Workers Union (SACCAWU).

COSATU national organising secretary Thabo Mahlangu said, “Society is angry with what is happening around the country. If the government does not take our warnings seriously, they must expect the consequences, and one of them will be at the elections next year.

“Government has been stubborn about filling existing vacancies in the public sector. People are complaining about poor service at government offices and forget that there is a shortage of manpower.”

SACCAWU member Steve Zwane said he had joined the march out of frustration with working conditions. He said he earns R9,000 per month and struggles to support his family as the cost of living continues to rise.

“The electricity tariffs are killing us. The price of food is soaring. There are a number of issues that have forced us to drop everything and come to the streets today.

“I am the sole breadwinner. We are being short-changed as workers. I got my salary at month end, but I’m already broke. We deserve more as workers,” said Zwane.

COSATU Gauteng chairperson Amos Monyela said, “We have successfully demanded the scrapping of e-tolls. We have demanded job creation, and the Gauteng provincial government has employed over 6,000 people over the past four months. We know this is not much, but we have succeeded … We are doing the same thing today.”

The unions handed over memorandums to the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), the Department of Labour, the South African Human Rights Commission, and the office of the Gauteng Premier.

Dozens of workers and union members march to the City Hall in Durban’s city centre. Photo: Tsoanelo Sefoloko

In Durban, union members marched from King Dinuzulu Park to the city hall to hand over their memorandum.

Member of the United National Transport Union (UNTU) Nethezeka Ndlela said many workers were against privatisation in the sector.

Sibongiseni Khathi from Transnet came to the city hall to accept the workers’ memo. The marchers want Transnet to stop using labour brokers.

Mxolisi Kaunda, eThekwini Mayor, also signed the memorandum and promised to respond within two weeks.

Nkosinathi Njapha, of the South African Emergency Personnel’s Union (SAEPU), said the safety of emergency workers remains a major challenge in the province. Njapha said staff on ambulances have been asking for the government to install cameras in the vehicles for the safety of the workers but to no avail.

COSATU says they have demanded that the ANC deal with crime and corruption.

The unions gave the government offices and departments in each province 14 days to respond to their demands.

TOPICS:  Labour unions Unions

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