SAFTU secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi address union members at Lilian Ngoyi sport complex in Port elizabeth during the workers day rally. Picture by BHEKI RADEBE
SAFTU secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi address union members at Lilian Ngoyi sport complex in Port elizabeth during the workers day rally. Picture by BHEKI RADEBE

Saftu boss Zwelinzima Vavi to lead angry workers in strike over public servant wages in Pretoria

By James Mahlokwane Time of article published Feb 24, 2021

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Pretoria - South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi is expected to lead a demonstration in Pretoria on Wednesday against the government’s failure to stem unemployment and increase the salaries of public servants as per the agreement reached with the unions three years ago.

Speaking to the Pretoria News, Vavi called on unemployed people and students to take part the demonstration.

The marchers will start at the Old Putco bus depot in Marabastad and head to various government departments, including the Treasury and the Presidency.

Other protests will take place across the country.

“Unemployment has worsened from 30% to 32%. Public servants did not receive an increase last year.

“They will not receive one for the next four years, but they will be expected to cope with the increase in petrol and food prices.

“Clearly, somebody has got to stand up and say enough is enough. We cannot go on like this. When we speak of a 32% unemployment rate we are talking about people here, not just statistics. These are families,” said Vavi.

He said the same nurses and doctors Premier David Makhura had thanked for saving his (Vavi’s) life when he contracted Covid-19 and also saved his (Makhura’s), were expected to keep risking their lives while their living earnings continued to shrink.

Spokesperson for the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) Phakamile Hlubi-Majola and her counterpart from the National Union of Public Service Workers, Kagiso Mokoe, endorsed the mass action.

Mokoe said: “We have now reached a point where we can’t tolerate the government’s attitude towards our members and workers in general.

“The government reneged on the third leg of a wage agreement with the public servants, freezing wages on the argument that the increase was not affordable. As we know, the public sector is understaffed when you compare it with the country’s population.

“No employer may victimise or penalise any worker who chooses to participate in the strike whether those workers are members of a union or not.

Every worker who decides to join in the strike has legal protection.

“We have also noted that Eskom is expected to increase its prices by over 15% for the 2021/22 financial year despite its incompetence to provide reliable power to South African citizens. This is a massive obstacle to investment, economic growth and job creation.

“The increase is a further blow to cash-strapped South Africans, without ignoring that Eskom is over R400 billion in debt and is owed R31.5bn in overdue debt by several municipalities.

“We are paying for years of mismanagement of a bloated and wasteful operation.”

Mokoe said they had made demands to the government for a R12 500 minimum wage for all workers, to change economic policy from an exploitative and heartless capitalist to an egalitarian society where the means of production will serve the national good; free, decolonised and high-quality public education and requested the right to strike without employer interference in the democratic functioning of unions.

Hlubi-Majola said: “The attack on the working class has intensified, particularly since the Covid-19 virus arrived.

The virus has exposed the brutality of the racist capitalist system in our country. The black and African working class are feeling the full brunt of this virus while the wealthy capitalist elite has barely suffered.”

She said 2 000 jobs had been cut from Eskom and if the government got its way, and closed down power stations 120 000 jobs could be lost.

“Companies like Macsteel tried to change the conditions of employment by hiding behind the virus. SAA and Comair have done the same.

They have drastically reduced staff and are paying workers even less than what they were earning before.

“Putco retrenched 214 workers unnecessarily when it was clear the problem was rampant mismanagement, but the virus was a convenient excuse for the job cuts,” said Hlubi-Majola.

Pretoria News

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