Johannesburg - Labour federation Cosatu seems to have been left unsatisfied with President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address last night, decrying the lack of details and specific interventions.
High on the organisation’s list of expectations was a firm commitment and leadership on critical issues such as unemployment, the national minimum wage and social security.
However, the president failed to thoroughly explain how his administration planned to fast track the social security policy, which was limited to only one sentence in his speech when he spelled out that government was finalising its formulation. This was not be the first time such an undertaking was made, the policy has been in the works for over a decade.
“Government needs to table and engage meaningful on the long promised discussion paper on comprehensive social security. It is long overdue and cannot be delayed any longer,” said Cosatu spokesman Sizwe Pamla in a statement.
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Zuma also announced last night that he was content with negotiations at Nedlac looking into the establishment of a national minimum wage system, however Cosatu expressed unhappiness with the process’ slow pace.
“These engagements cannot be allowed to drag on forever and government needs to play a decisive role, towards ensuring that these goals are realised. Workers must not be blamed for long strong strikes but the root causes of strikes must instead be properly and urgently addressed. All that workers want are permanent jobs and decent wages,” examined Pamla.
Yet, it was the president’s insistence that state owned enterprises were doing well, even singling out the roads agency, Sanral as an exemplary entity that earned him the federation’s ire.
“Cosatu cannot understand why the President praised Sanral because it has been utter disaster. Government must recognise the stark reality and accept that workers and indeed voters have overwhelmingly rejected e-Tolls. This crude form of privatisation of access to public roads must be abolished,” Pamla said.
Another hard pill to swallow for Cosatu was the suggestion by Zuma that the country should adopt a single capital as opposed to the current situation of two seats of power in Cape Town and Pretoria. This, he explained, would save the state money as he committed his cabinet to several cutbacks including international trips.
Pamla warned that the idea may “sound good in principle”, however it could cost the state more than it can afford, estimating the amount to be at R7 billion.
“Moving Parliament would mean uprooting 1 400 Parliamentary staff and their families from their homes. The estimated cost of moving parliament is R7 billion rand and we don’t know where such money would come from. Whilst we fully support cost cutting, it must not come at the expense of workers and their families,” he said.
The federation said it looked forward to engaging the government on these issues and other action plans once spelt out in the national budget speech and those of the various departments.