Cosatu sends stern warning to government

Johannesburg, 7 October 2015 - Cosatu’s call to action on Wednesday hasn't delivered the promised numbers. About 10,000 workers took to the streets across the country for the federation’s march for decent jobs. Video: eNCA
Johannesburg, 7 October 2015 - Cosatu’s call to action on Wednesday hasn't delivered the promised numbers. About 10,000 workers took to the streets across the country for the federation’s march for decent jobs. Video: eNCA

CAPE TOWN - Stern warnings and a list of demands were delivered by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) during their World Day for Decent Work march in Cape Town on Wednesday.

“We will not tolerate the exploitation of our workers,” said Tony Ehrenreich, Cosatu provincial secretary.

“We will no longer be sending letters. We will come to your places of work and we will deal with you.”

Cosatu led the World Day for Decent Work march to Parliament on Wednesday, forming part of both a nationwide and international campaign geared towards improving conditions for workers. Joining the trade union were alliance partners the African National Congress (ANC), its youth league, and the South African Communist Party (SACP) as well as affiliate unions.

Following demands voiced by partners and affiliates, Cosatu delivered its combined list which included an improved public transport system, the end to increased tax on workers, protection of jobs, the scrapping of the national minimum wage, tackling the electricity crisis, and implementing the National Health Insurance (NHI) policy.

“One rand of every five rand goes towards getting to work. You work for one week just to pay for transport,” said Ehrenreich.

“We can no longer accept that and we are demanding subsidised transport.”

He called on national and local government to ensure workers gain access to an integrated, safe, and subsidised transport system. He added that electronic tolling should be scrapped in its entirety.

Ehrenreich took a swipe at the City of Cape Town’s mayor Patricia de Lille and mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith and said Cosatu would soon fight for higher wages for the City’s law enforcement unit.

“We know that you play an integral role in keeping the city safe but you are earning nothing while JP Smith and Patricia de Lille earn over one million rand every year,” said Ehrenreich.

“Sies to Smith and sies to De Lille. Stop exploiting our people.”

Also included in the list of demands was the protection of jobs, workers’ access to healthcare, as well as ending talks about an increase to value-added tax which would see it move from 14 percent to seventeen percent and tax items such as bread.

“We are opposed to that and we will fight it. Go tax people in Sea Point and Clifton who have all the money,” said Ehrenreich.

He also demanded that government do away with plans for nuclear power and focus on renewable energy.

The scrapping of national minimum wage was also called for, as had been done on numerous occasions by Cosatu, with Ehrenreich saying it only benefited the rich. He stated that their employers, such as Shoprite’s Whitey Basson and billionaire families the Oppenheimers and Ruperts were getting richer while workers slaved away for minimum wage.

“These thieves of apartheid get rich from exploiting you,” said Ehrenreich.

Ending off the trade unions’ list of demands before handing the document over to Minister of Public Works Thulas Nxesi, Ehrenreich warned national and local government to respond quickly to the workers demands.

“We don’t want to wait another 20 years. We negotiated and we are getting tired,” he said.

“Because when we come back next time, we won’t be as nice.”

Johannesburg / Durban

Meanwhile, in Johannesburg, the sweltering heat didn't discourage protesters.

Memorandums of demand were handed over to the provincial labour department, Bank City, the Gauteng premier’s office and the Chamber of Mines. 

While the turnout was lower than expected, police officials estimated about 4,000 people took part, determined to make their voices heard in the baking summer sun. 

And in Durban, around 2,000 people added their voices to the call for decent employment.

* Watch the full video reports by Nickolaus Bauer and Athi Mtongana in the gallery above.

Africa News Agency

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