Militant trade unionists will march through Rustenberg in South Africa's North West province this morning, delivering protest letters to employers and government officials.
Revolutionary trade union confederation Cosatu provincial secretary Solly Phetoe says that the letters will demand an end to job losses and union-bashing.
The Cosatu leader pointed out that the Freedom Charter drawn up by the Congress of the People at Kliptown in 1955 had called for the right for workers to form trade unions, elect officers and negotiate wages with employers.
This had found expression in free South Africa's constitution that guarantees fair labour practices, including the right to join a union, take part in its activities and strike.
Phetoe highlighted the derecognition of the National Union of Mineworkers, a major Cosatu affiliate, by Impala Platinum, accusing the company of continuing to deal with other unions that fail to meet requirements set by the Labour Relations Act (LRA).
"It is clear that Impala is fighting the NUM and the federation due to their affiliation with the political party in government. This means Impala is being used politically to destroy the ANC government," he declared.
Phetoe complained that companies and government departments have allowed "fly-by-night unions" to be formed without recourse to the LRA, "undermining our hard-won democracy that we fought for."
He insisted that Cosatu would not leave the situation unchallenged, calling for reinstatement of all workers sacked following recent unprotected strikes in the mining sector and 1,300 workers dismissed at Rainbow Chicken.
"We are calling on all our members and other workers who are being exploited by this capitalist agenda to join our action peacefully," Phetoe said.
Cosatu has also involved itself in the Western Cape's agricultural sector where a series of lightning strikes in De Doorns resulted in Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant announcing a new daily minimum wage this week for farmworkers of 105 rand (£7.50), up R36 (£2.55) from the current rate, to take effect from March 1.
Although Oliphant laid down annual uplifts linked to inflation, Food and Allied Workers Union general secretary Katishi Masemola reaffirmed Fawu commitment to its target of R150 (£10.70).
Although these levels remain little better than poverty pay, many farmers criticise them as unaffordable, threatening farm workers with the sack.
At least 2,000 farm workers' jobs, mainly in Limpopo and Mpumalanga, are already in jeopardy because of what Cosatu calls blackmail tactics by the farmers.
The Transvaal Agricultural Union (TAU SA) farmers' body says that the rise will jeopardise labour relations, cause a reduction in the workforce and create a "climate for inflation" that would impact on consumers.
TAU SA president Louis Meintjes, whose organisation had proposed a new R80 (£5.70) rate, said that further unrest could occur if farmers were to implement wage increases at the new minimum wage level only, adding that extra costs would push farmers to invest in mechanisation.
The trade union movement response has been flexible, with Masemola telling farmers to be reasonable and highlighting the reality that land remains largely in the hands of white people a century after the 1913 Land Act dispossessed the African majority.
He urged farmers facing genuine hardship to approach the minister of labour to seek assistance.
Unions have also proposed joint action with farmers against major retail stores that, as with supermarkets in Britain, pay a pittance for agricultural produce and sell at a large mark-up.
Cosatu Western Cape secretary Tony Ehrenreich cited research showing that retailers have been central to the imposition of "apartheid-style" cost practices in agriculture, promoting, profiting and benefiting from slave wages.
He added that protests over the pricing of agricultural products are planned in major retail outlets on February 27.
Ehrenreich insisted that the government should be ready to subsidise small farmers, but he stipulated that there must be comprehensive land reform.
"We will not allow bad farmers to continue their reign of terror on farms. We will work with good farmers and build an agricultural sector that is aligned to the values of the new South Africa."
President Jacob Zuma acknowledged last month that the government had failed to achieve the target set at the ANC conference at Polokwane in 2007 for transferring ownership of 30 per cent of agricultural land to black farmers.
Noting that the 1913 Land Act had sown the seeds of today's landlessness, poverty and inequality, he said that government would speed up the process.
"We will replace the principle of 'willing buyer, willing seller,' which has not sufficiently addressed the problem, with the 'just and equitable' principle when expropriating land for land reform purposes," the president declared.
The ANC took issue days later with Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) after it blithely announced 14,000 redundancies, 13,000 of them in the Rustenberg area, as a result of losses incurred through last autumn's two-month strike.
The company has suspended the sackings during talks with Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu, but the situation remains tense, especially since government data shows that 68,000 jobs disappeared from the South African economy in the fourth quarter of 2012.
With an official jobless rate of 24.9 per cent, 2013 is likely to be a lively year for South Africa's unions.
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