SAFTU promises rolling mass action

Cosatu provincial secretary, Tony Ehrenreich, sharing a stage with Saftu general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, during Saftu's strike in April 2018. Archive photo by Mzi Velapi

On World Day for Decent Work, trade union federations in South Africa will go on strike against austerity measures and pro-business economic policies.

The South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) promised that the national strike on Wednesday will be the start of rolling mass action for a better life. Ending a press conference on Monday, the federation’s general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, promised more action on the part of workers: “There will be no more of switching off the tap and switching it [back] on, it’s [going to be like that] right through for many many years of demanding what correctly belongs to workers.”

In an historic show of worker unity by putting aside their political rivalry, Saftu and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) will go on a national strike against retrenchments, unemployment, attacks on collective bargaining, corruption and gender-based violence on Wednesday.

Vavi said that while they have a common list of demands, each region will have a special focus. In Gauteng and the Western Cape, the focus will be on the collapsed state of rail infrastructure due to vandalism and corruption. “We will also be protesting outside the doorsteps of Cell C, a company that is seeking to retrench 1,600 workers out of the 2,500 that it has employed. We are targeting Cell C as a symbol to highlight the fact that in-between just March and June this year, the economy shed 2.2-million workers who have now joined long queues of unemployment,” Vavi said.

In the Eastern Cape and Limpopo the focus will be on corruption. “In Limpopo we will have a night vigil on Tuesday and the following day we will occupy the offices of the Premier and call for the arrest of all those who are involved in corruption,” he said. The Port Elizabeth protest will highlight the issue of drought and water mismanagement by the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.

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In KwaZulu-Natal, the focus will be on gender-based violence.

Speaking on behalf of the organisations involved in the C19 People’s Coalition, Rehad Desai said that they support the strike but are also calling for a universal basic income grant, proper public transport, and water to meet the ravaging challenges of the climate crisis. “We are also calling for a universal healthcare system and an end to the two-tier health system, rather than NHI (National Health Insurance) which is a diluted neo-liberal alternative,” Desai said.

Cosatu for its part will be targeting government, private sector employers and law enforcement agencies in calling on workers to join the strike “to exercise their right to challenge and contest this rigged economic system.”

“We are making a louder call for decisive state intervention in strategic sectors of the economy, [and] the use of a variety of macroeconomic and other levers at the state’s disposal to deliberately drive industrialisation, sustainable development, decent employment creation, and break historical patterns of colonial exploitation and dependence,” reads the statement from the federation.

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