Johannesburg – The SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) has reiterated its rejection of SA’s ambitious Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP) as it plans to embark on a nationwide general strike to highlight growing poverty, unemployment and inequality in the country.
The federation on Tuesday indicated it was planning to stage one of its pickets in Parliament when Finance Minister Tito Mboweni delivers his Budget Speech on Thursday next week, while other mass demonstrations will be held in various provinces.
The ERRP was unveiled late last year as an outcome of a social compact at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) to help advance SA’s economic recovery and reconstruction, through infrastructure investment, mobilisation of capital and increased localisation, among other means.
Saftu deputy general-secretary Moleko Phakedi said while President Cyril Ramaphosa had indicated the ERRP was already being implemented, the federation and its affiliates were opposed to it as it reduced the country’s socio-economic challenges to the Covid-19 economic damage.
“We have long identified the challenges of our economic system to be challenges that are historical, about 300 years of colonialism, four decades of apartheid and another 30 or so years of a wasted democratic dispensation. So you cannot try to find a solution to our economic crisis and the further impact by the Covid-9 destruction on the basis of the ERRP,” Phakedi said.
Saftu’s looming strike action has raised concerns that it would undermine the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic if more Saftu supporters show up.
Phakedi said while Covid-19 was a devastating reality, it was also being used to beat workers and the poor into submission and blocking them from exercising their right to demonstrate.
The Federation called on the government to allow political gatherings.
Phakedi said the federation would, however, put all measures in place for the upcoming strike action to ensure that it is compliant with Covid-19 regulations across provinces.
“We cannot be seen to be perpetuating disobedience or creating what is now called the coming third wave. That is why we don’t even call for big marches in our plan. It might probably be a motorcade or a group of people handing a memorandum at a particular office in the identified provinces and towns,” he said.
Saftu general-secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, meanwhile, pointed out the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic had not united South Africans as inequalities and job cuts were escalating, with the working-class bearing the brunt of economic exclusion.
“This ‘we are all in this together’ does not make sense to us. The pandemic divided us further in what is already the world’s most unequal country. Rich capitalists have gotten richer while the working class is now much poorer. It is time to fight back. We must take the battle for our jobs, livelihoods and democratic rights to the streets,” Vavi said.
Vavi indicated a number of Saftu’s affiliated unions had submitted a Section 77 notice at Nedlac for the upcoming strike in a bid to protect workers.
“This means that no employer may victimise or penalise any worker who chose to participate in the strike whether those workers are members of a different union or not a member of any union. Every worker who chooses to participate in the strike has legal protection,” he said.