Cape Town - Rolling mass action against the government’s youth wage subsidy by the National Union of Metalworkers was due to begin on Wednesday with a picket outside Parliament.
And on Tuesday, the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) finally received a Section 77 notice from the union, paving the way for a national strike by Numsa next month.
If Wednesday’s picket is successful, it would be a show of force aimed at Numsa’s opponents.
Amid rumblings that Numsa would start its own political party, the union was likely to use Wednesday to test the waters and gauge its support, including that of unemployed non-unionised youth.
Numsa was due to be joined by the so-called “ Numsa Nine” – Southern African Commercial Catering and Allied Workers Union, Communication Workers Union, Public and Allied Workers Union of South Africa, Food and Allied Workers Union, South African Municipal Workers Union, Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa, South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union, Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers Union, Commercial Stevedoring Agriculture and Allied Workers Union – this as Numsa faces suspension from labour federation Cosatu.
The unions were to be joined by civil society groupings such as Equal Education, Progressive Youth Movement, Abahlali Basemjondolo, the Housing Assembly, Youth Development Council and the Alternative Information & Development Centre.
Addressing a media conference in Cape Town on Tuesday, Western Cape Numsa secretary Vuyo Lufele said that in line with the resolution taken at its special congress, it had decided to drive a “jobs for youth campaign”.
The campaign would mobilise workers, the unemployed, youth, with the working class as the leading motive force, to campaign for Decent Jobs for the Youth.
“We are clear that youth unemployment constitutes a ticking time bomb and requires a coherent and decisive break from the failed capitalist neo-liberal economic policies,” Lufele said.
Cosatu and Numsa remain opposed to the youth wage subsidy, officially termed the Employment Tax Incentive by the government, on the grounds that it unnecessarily subsidises employers, could displace older workers and widen inequality.
But there was also anger from both Nedlac and organised labour that the government had bypassed the forum in what Numsa on Tuesday characterised as “desperation” to capture the youth vote in the elections.
“The Employment Tax Incentive Bill bypassed the Nedlac processes, obviously due to the greed of the bosses and the desperation of ANC politicians to capture the youth vote as we approach the May 7 general elections,” Lufele said.
The Nedlac Act requires that socio-economic policies be discussed with labour, business and community constituencies before they are tabled in Parliament.
Nedlac obtained a legal opinion after it said it was bypassed by the government in the processing of the bill.
This charge was however rejected by the Treasury on the basis that a discussion document on the wage subsidy was introduced for discussion at Nedlac in 2011, and further that the tax incentive bill is a money bill, not a labour bill.
Meanwhile, Numsa said mass unemployment, deepening poverty and widening inequalities affected black African urban and rural working class youth in the main. “As a result of this, we are experiencing daily community protests against poor service delivery,” Lufele said.
“Political power is just a shell when it is not accompanied by genuine economic emancipation. Therefore, real political power firmly remains in the hands of white monopoly capital, which owns the decisive means of production in our country.”