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General Industries Workers Union of South Africa, press statement 30 May 2018

The General Industries Workers Union of SA (GIWUSA) is not surprised that the ANC government has rushed through the National Assembly the three Labour Bills – namely the Basic Conditions of Employment Bill, National Minimum Wage Bill and the Labour Relations Amendment Bill. The passing of these Bills represents a dark day in the history of the South African working class. The three passed Labour Bills together constitute a huge setback for the working class of South Africa. These Bills are part of the agenda of the Ramaphosa Administration to bring about reform to appease the rating agencies and local white monopoly capital. Their intention is to place more limitations on the workers’ main weapons in the arena of collective bargaining, i.e. strikes and pickets and to drive down the wages of the South African working class.

This is what the rating agencies and local white monopoly capital have been clamouring for a long time. Every rating agency report on the country clamours for changes to the labour laws as a means of removing constraints to economic growth, a euphemism for the maximization of profit. One of the factors that has persuaded these credit rating agencies not to downgrade the country’s rating to complete junk status was that there is a willingness from the side of ANC government to accommodate this call of the employer class. The rating agencies were confident the reforms will be finalised in a short period of time, and indeed they were not wrong in placing their faith in the ANC government. We have now the passing of these Bills by the National Assembly as the fulfilment of that commitment.

These Bills will lead to the consolidation of the power and control of the employer class over labour in the workplace. They have absolutely nothing to do with either tackling violence during strikes or reducing poverty, as professed in the accompanied explanatory notes, but have everything to do with accommodating the interest of capital, both locally and internationally. 

Though very disappointing, but not unsurprisingly, is the assistance rendered to the ANC by the labour movement in the form of COSATU, FEDUSA and NACTU in consolidating the power of the employer class. These federations have decided to assist white monopoly capital to attack the hard-won rights of workers and to drive down wages. These federations are complicit in the agenda of capital to perpetuate the legacy of cheap labour in our country. This two-prong attack of driving down wages in the form of the National Minimum Wage and undermining the right to strike is meant to render workers powerless in relation to capital, giving capital the freedom to exploit the working class at will.

The Amendments are unconstitutional!!

GIWUSA has consistently rejected these Bills. The amendments to the Labour Relations Act are blatantly unconstitutional. South African workers will be prohibited from exercising the right to strike unless there are picketing rules in place. This restriction undermines the right to strike. Furthermore, a judge of the labour court will now have the power to suspend a picket and thereby a protected strike. In the context where employers are allowed to use scab labour during a protected strike, which is the main source of tension during a strike, we will see more inference in strikes on the part of the judiciary.

GIWUSA supports SAFTU’s call to intensify the resistance to these Bills and supports the intensification of mass action. GIWUSA also support the intended constitutional challenge to these Bills. The working class has fought hard and long for it to have the right to strike only for a democratic government to want to take it away.

GIWUSA supports SAFTU’s call to broaden the struggle against these attacks and involve all other fighting battalions of the working class. Communities are revolting against the lack of service delivery and housing; informal traders are resisting oppression and victimization; the unemployed are demanding jobs and social benefits; the landless are fighting for land; workers are fighting poverty wages and the casualisation of employment. All these struggles have one source and that is the neo-liberal policies of the ANC government. Through its neo-liberal policy, the ANC government has abandoned its responsibility of providing a comprehensive social wage for the working class – the commercialisation and privatisation of basic services, housing, health and education has meant that the working class is forced to pay for these social services. In many cases the ANC government has allowed these services either to be non-existent or completely neglected and run-down. 

GIWUSA sees these attacks as a means of uniting the working class into a unified force that would have the power to push back the agenda of the ANC government and its capitalist partners.