Public servants take fight to government
Pretoria - Public servants said it was ridiculous that government froze wage increases for three years while they had to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic and increases in electricity tariffs, as well as petrol and food prices.
They were participating in a march led by the South Africa Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) in Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban and Joburg. The national mass action was held under the theme #SaftuStayAway.
The marchers were demanding a pro-poor government stance that sought to root out corruption instead of trimming budgets and shedding jobs through austerity measures.
While things were calm between the police and protesters in Pretoria, there was some tension in Cape Town where workers felt the police tried to stop them from making their way to Parliament.
The participants said it was time for government to realise that it could not continue squeezing the workers to a point where they could not make ends meet or earn decent living wages.
Young Nurses Indaba Trade Union president Leratro Mthunzi, who joined the march in Pretoria, said: “The pandemic has wreaked havoc in healthcare facilities and worsened existing problems such as staff shortages, a lack of resources and overcrowding.
“Nurses and other professionals in the sector have had enough of the government's failure to act speedily in resolving these issues.”
He said they were demanding that the government paid all healthcare workers Covid-19 and danger allowances.
Every front-line worker must be provided with sufficient personal protective equipment of the highest quality and their salaries reviewed.
The union also want an increase for nurses and permanent employment for all healthcare workers on Covid-19 contracts.
It also called for healthcare workers to be afforded a tax break to alleviate their financial stress during the pandemic.
National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers national convenor Solly Malema, who read the memorandum in Pretoria, said the pandemic starkly exposed South Africa’s inequalities at a time when the country was already falling.
The memorandum read: “Thanks to the State’s incompetence and its immoral disregard for poor and working-class lives, there were 1.4 million fewer jobs as we entered 2021 than a year earlier, even after hundreds of thousands of minimum-wage workers were hired by the state.
“President Cyril Ramaphosa’s interventions are simply inadequate.”
Saftu also demanded an overhaul of the economy and the building of an egalitarian society; a new economy that was reorganised and democratically-planned with common ownership; the nationalisation of strategic monopoly industries, banks and mining houses under democratic workers’ and community control and management; and the renationalisation of ArcelorMittal and Sasol.
It also wants a living minimum wage for all workers, the cutting of wages, bonuses and other benefits of bosses and the re-imposition of corporate tax rates of 50%.
The marchers also called for the termination of illicit financial flows; and improved public health and education funding.