SAFTU General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has warned that the new ANC leadership led by former NUM secretary, President Cyril Ramaphosa aims to erode all the gains that workers have fought for in the past.
South Africans are still subjected to a system that does not care for the working class and the poor. If the working class and the union that represent them do not join hands to fight this capitalist system then the game is over says Zwelinzima Vavi, General Secretary of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) addressing Western Cape Provincial shop stewards on Tuesday night.
The meeting was convened to forge a way forward on the labour law amendments and the proposed national minimum wage.
The amendments would require trade unions to decide on strike action by secret ballot. Trade unions believe that this undermines the collective power that trade unions have to fight against the employers.
The national minimum wage was negotiated in Nedlac together with then Deputy President Ramaphosa to be R20 per hour in major sectors. The national minimum for farm workers and domestic workers is set to be less, R18 and R15 respectively. Government is intent on launching the national minimum wage on Workers’ Day, 1 May 2018 – if the bill gets passed in the National Assembly.
“Capitalist system is still rife in the country. Look now people are made to believe that there is hope in President Cyril Ramaphosa because he has a trade union past. There is nothing promising about Ramaphosa,” says Vavi, adding that Ramaphosa’s barefaced corruption is not noticed by South Africans because of his history.
Vavi painted the presidency of Ramaphosa as one that will be characterised by conflict with workers, where the right to strike and to fair collective bargaining will be curbed.
“We are moving away from collective bargaining to collective begging under the new government. If we are not very careful unions will only be there to organise braais on weekends and festive season,” he says.
On the minimum wage Vavi says “the R20 per hour is not enough. I am sure Ramaphosa would not allow his dogs to feed on that amount per day. That is too little.”
According to Vavi, the increase in VAT announced in the national budget clearly demonstrates Ramaphosa’s alllegiance. An increase in VAT disproportionately affects consumers, not the corporate profiteers.
Abraham Agulhas from United Front who was also in attendance says, “This is not a new battle. We fought apartheid… if we manage to make a change that time what makes us fail to do the same to the ANC-led government?”
Agulhas urged shopstewards to reject any amendments to the labour laws and the minimum wage.
“Workers were not consulted so why buy into these amendments?” he asks.
The shop stewards agreed to mobilise workers to collectively fight the labour bills.
On 12 April 2018 SAFTU and its affiliates will march to the City of Cape Town and to Parliament.