Saftu marches against proposed labour laws

Union opposes secret ballot for strikes and national minimum wage amount

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Photo of Zwelinzima Vavi
Saftu Deputy President Zwelinzima Vavi addressed workers at Thursday’s march to Parliament. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

More than one thousand South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) workers and supporters gathered on Keizersgracht Street to march to Parliament on Thursday. They denounced the National Minimum Wage Bill, and proposed amendments to labour laws that have consequences for strikes, the VAT increase, and the water tariff increase.

Supporters sang and danced down the street, many wearing red shirts in support of Saftu and holding signs and banners.

Slated to go into effect on 1 May, the National Minimum Wage Bill has been pushed back to an unknown date. This Bill will put in place a national minimum wage of R20 per hour for most workers, and a lower wage for agricultural workers, domestic workers, and Extended Public Works staff.

“They are punishing us with this poverty minimum wage of 20 rand per hour,” Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) National Spokesperson said. “And the ultimate betrayal, they are trying to limit the right to strike. This could possibly be one of the last times we are able to go on strike.”

The Labour Relations Act amendment will require trade unions to have a secret ballot when deciding to strike.

“It has been shown that if you make it more difficult for people to legally protest, to lawfully protest, to [partake in] protected strikes then that actually creates a situation where people are more likely to do those things unlawfully and in an unprotected way,” Ronald Wesso at the Casual Worker’s Advice Office said.

Elsies River resident Charmen Gribl marched against the City of Cape Town budget that includes a water tariff increase proposed for 5 May. Gribl is a screen printing businesswoman who supports three children and a grandchild with her salary. “This water [increase] will affect me terribly because there will be no growth at all for me,” Gribl said. “I will be working mostly for water and electricity.”

When the march reached Parliament various Saftu leaders spoke including Deputy President Zwelinzima Vavi. COSATU Provincial Secretary Tony Ehrenreich also made an appearance on stage to support workers.

“If it is not okay for your child, if it is not okay for you, why do you want to impose it on black workers?” Vavi said. “What happened to your conscious?”

The march memorandum stated that if Parliament does not have a positive response to Saftu’s demands before 25 April, supporters will return to Parliament to get a response.

Deputy Secretary to Parliament Modibedi Eric Phindela received the memo.

The Portfolio Committee on Labour will meet on Tuesday to deliberate the National Minimum Wage Bill, the Basic Conditions Bill, and the Labour Relations Act. The Committee did not respond to a request for comment.

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TOPICS:  Labour

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