The DA’s march to Cosatu’s offices was aimed at ensuring that the wages of the poorly paid workers in the retail industry remained the same for the rest of their lives.

This was stated on Thursday by Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi after the main opposition in Parliament had obtained police permission to march to the labour federation’s offices in Braamfontein, Joburg, on May 15.

The DA decided to march to the federation’s offices after party leader Helen Zille accused Cosatu of working against the interest of unemployed people during a Workers’ Day rally in Midvaal.

Vavi made the accusation against the DA during the relaunch of Struggle veteran and unionist Emma Mashinini’s autobiography, Strikes have followed me all my Life.

In her book, Mashinini writes extensively about the abuse and dehumanisation of women in the garment industry in the late 1950s. She also writes about her difficulties in forming the Commercial Catering and Allied Workers Union of South Africa (Ccawusa) in 1975, when she was subjected to constant arrests.

According to Vavi, the hardship suffered by Mashinini and others was still prevalent in SA today.

“There is an increased rate of exploitation in the retail industry. Even if there are 1 million job losses in the country, the retail bosses continue to smile.

“In South Africa, 30 percent of people in the retail and hospitality sectors are casual workers,” he said.

Vavi singled out three retail giants – Checkers, Pick n Pay and Woolworths – as the worst exploiters of workers.

He said Checkers alone had a staff complement of 73 000 workers throughout the country, adding that 35 percent of them were permanent workers, 5 percent contract workers and 60 percent casual workers.

According to Vavi, full-time workers at Checkers earned R4 000 a month, and others a minimum wage of R1 800.

He said Pick n Pay had a staff complement of 36 538, with only 16 000 of them full-time staff.

“Our message to the cowards and opportunists in the DA is to come march to us and tell us that half a loaf is better than no bread at all,” Vavi said.

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The Star