The SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) is taking their nationwide general strike to Parliament next week as it accuses the government of not doing enough to uplift South Africans from the ravages of poverty, growing unemployment and inequality.
The federation indicated that its organised strike action had been designed to coincide with Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s Budget Speech which is scheduled for February 24 as it wanted to sharply raise and draw SA’s socio-economic woes to the attention of the nation.
Saftu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi told a media briefing on Tuesday that 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 that a number of Saftu’s affiliated unions had submitted a Section 77 notice to the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) for the upcoming strike action in a bid to protect workers should they down tools and take part.
“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 a legal protection,” he said.
Among the issues the federation is planning to highlight is its demand for the overhaul of the country’s economy to counter the damage that saw more than 2 million jobs destroyed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Saftu has pointed out that SA’s increasing joblessness would inevitably result in the exploitation of most South Africans as the private sector would flourish through the “reserve army” of unemployed people who would be able to accept anything to put food on their mouth.
“Bosses are using Covid-19 as an excuse to cut wages and worsen conditions. More jobs are becoming precarious through outsourcing, zero-hours contracts or bogus self-employment status,” Vavi said.
He pointed out that the union would on Thursday be meeting with other organisations where the details of the general strike would be finalised.