Cosatu-affiliated workers walk out to end corporate greed
SOUTH AFRICAN workers staged a general strike yesterday to mark World Day for Decent Work.
The strike called by revolutionary union federation Cosatu was part of the global events organised by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) under the slogan “end corporate greed.”
Marchers filled streets of every major city in a sea of red T-shirts as workers took advantage of legal strike protection to enjoy a long weekend.
Textiles union Sactwu said two-thirds of its urban members heeded the strike call.
General secretary Andre Kriel said: “These workers are making it clear that they demand decent work and improved public transport.
“They cannot feed and take care of their families with the low wages that they receive, especially if a large part of it is spent on public transport.”
The union’s demands included a total ban on temporary employment agencies, which are already regulated under South African law, with employers obliged to take staff on permanently after six months.
Also on the list were free education, a national minimum wage, an end to redundancies, enforcement of health and safety legislation and implementation of the ANC government’s health insurance policy.
The South African Communist Party called on workers “to intensify the struggle for the elimination of economic exploitation, so that that every day can become a real decent work day.”
Cosatu deputy general secretary Solly Phetoe warned the government it had 14 days to respond to its demands or face monthly strikes.
“If it means every week or every month we must go to the streets or go and occupy those government offices, we will do so. We are not joking.”
Metalworkers union Numsa, expelled from Cosatu last November for poaching other unions’ members, and its ally food and farming union Fawu boycotted the strike.
Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim called the hugely popular event “a desperate attempt to salvage some credibility by a federation which has abandoned the workers.”
Instead he pledged to support student protests against fees, which have occasionally turned violent.
Meanwhile the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) held its 17th conference in the Indian Ocean port city of Durban.
Greece’s George Mavrikos was re-elected general secretary, while South African health union Nehawu president Michael Mzwandile Makwayiba was elected to the WFTU presidency.