JOHANNESBURG - Labour federations are warning of a militant response if government undermines collective bargaining and multi-year wage agreements.
They say this could destabilise labour relations in South Africa.
ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa has promised workers he won't allow this to happen even as unions face off against the government in court over wage increases.
Ramaphosa addressed Cosatu's virtual May Day celebrations in Johannesburg.
The government went to court to avoid paying the three-year wage increase it promised to its employees.
Instead, it's offering no increase this year, saying it can't afford any hikes.
Cosatu believes this is an attack on collective bargaining, something that deserves a strong reaction.
Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi said, "starting with the current deadlock in the public service wage negotiations. Unions and social organisations should respond with militancy and programmes of the mass line. This means embarking on mass picketing, going for sympathy strikes and solidarity rallies."
Saftu says South African workers are facing a full-frontal attack.
Saftu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said, "in South Africa, the government is leading the attack, it's refusing to implement a decision that it signed. A contract that it signed with the public sector workers in 2018 has now been violated and <the> government has bolted out of that agreement last year."
The ANC president maintains government will return to collective bargaining negotiations and remains committed to it.
Ramaphosa said, "yes, we should return to the bargaining table and have thoroughgoing negotiations with labour in this regard. The ANC led government reaffirms its commitment to protecting collective bargaining and all other labour rights that many workers sacrificed so much for."
But Fedusa is not convinced.
Fedusa Education and Training's Ashley Benjamin said. "we are delighted to hear the president's comments about defending collective bargaining. But the problem is what government say and what they do is two different issues. So we call on the government and the president to walk the talk."
Upcoming public wage talks and the unions' Constitutional Court challenge to get their wage increase will test whether the government will follow through on the president's commitment.