Unions unite as labour march brings Pretoria to standstill
Pretoria - Cosatu yesterday brought Pretoria to a standstill in a march during which it demanded that government put an end to exploitation, corruption and gender-based violence in the country.
Its president Zingizwa Losi said for the very first time in South Africa, workers affiliated to various unions and federations put their emblems and colours aside and marched in unity to National Treasury.
The march included members of the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), SA Municipal Workers Union, Democratic Postal and Communications Union, the SA Democratic Teachers Union, Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA and the Voice It In Action.
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula and his Employment and Labour counterpart Thulas Nxesi said they abandoned a Cabinet lekgotla to meet marchers outside the Treasury offices to show them that their plight was taken seriously by government.
They apologised for the absence of Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, who had to stay behind to make presentations to Cabinet on the Budget.They assured the angry crowd that Mboweni and other ministries would receive copies of the memorandum and respond in one voice within the 14 days they were given.
Losi told the ministers that yesterday was the International Day for Decent Work and International Working-Class Solidarity, and therefore fitting for the federation to march on behalf of millions of workers and ordinary people to express anger, frustration and united solidarity against the horrifying conditions they were all faced with.
Regarding working conditions, she said workers demanded 100% compliance with the occupational health and safety direction and regulations by all employers.
This included the provision of sufficient personal protective equipment for all front line workers and a properly regulated, safe, affordable and reliable public transport to ensure transformation, creation of decent jobs, protection of commuters and workers.
She said they wanted government to register taxi drivers and queue marshals for compensation for occupational injuries and diseases and unemployment insurance benefits as they were not benefiting from UIF and temporary relief benefits.
On corruption, Losi said: “We demand speedy and effective prosecution of high-profile public and private sector cases of corruption by law enforcement agencies as matter of national priority.
“We demand the banning of politically exposed persons from doing business with the state,” she added.
Losi said they demanded compulsory education and academic curriculum that would focus on ethics, values and principled conduct and character development in leadership and general orientation, lifestyle and behaviour patterns.
“We demand a deliberate and more focused implementation and resourcing of the national gender-based violence plan, including support for victims and stiff penalties for offenders, rehabilitation programmes and workplace strategies to combat all and every form of sexual harassment and improve gender mainstreaming,” she said.
The federations said they were all united in the call for the immediate declaration and enforcement of a national moratorium on retrenchments and job losses in the public interest as a way to halt the job loss calamity.
SACP first deputy president Solly Mapaila said workers were now demanding the government to finally implement the National Health Insurance so that everyone could have access to private health care.
Nxesi and Mbalula said they heard the cries of the people and their demand to know where the government stood on e-tolling and would ensure that they received a response. Mbalula said a response on e-tolling was imminent and would make everyone happy.
The demonstrations also took place outside various government buildings, municipal offices and police stations across the country.