Saftu takes aim at Cyril over minimum wage, labour law

General secretary of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), Zwelinzima Vavi. Picture by Gallo Images / Alet Pretorius

General secretary of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), Zwelinzima Vavi. Picture by Gallo Images / Alet Pretorius

Saftu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi is accusing Ramaphosa of using Marikana-style anti-strike tactics in a ‘most frontal attack’ on workers.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is in the firing line of the South African Federation of Trade Union (Saftu), which has accused him of using his old Marikana-style anti-strike tactics as he introduces the national minimum wage and amendments to the labour law.

Saftu general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, said the proposed national minimum wage (NMW) and the rules governing strikes, secret ballots and picketing by workers smack of Ramaphosa’s attitude as then director at Lonmin Platinum mine. 

The president had been associated with having influenced the 2012 Marikana Massacre in which at least 34 striking mineworkers were shot dead by police.

Vavi said Ramaphosa’s government was hell-bent on suppressing any strike of the same magnitude as the Marikana action in his pursuit of labour market stabilisation.

But Business Unity South African (Busa) said it stood behind the new provisions and support the legislative amendments. Busa, which has made a submission to the parliamentary labour portfolio committee, said the Bill reflected a delicate package of compromises that arose out of the Nedlac negotiations. 

“The labour relations stability amendments include provisions that have the potential to change fundamentally the tone of labour relations and build a mutually respectful, job rich, productive and competitive economy, thereby enhancing the Constitutional right to fair labour practices and putting us on the path of social and economic prosperity,” said Tanya Cohen, Busa CEO.

Cohen is the lead technical negotiator for business in the Nedlac negotiations on labour relations stability and wage inequality.

Saftu and its affiliates will embark on a general strike on Wednesday to protest the R20 per hour minimum wage and amendments to the Labour Relations Act so as to enforce picketing rules and secret balloting of workers prior to a strike.

The federation had started to canvass all political parties and unions affiliated to Cosatu to join Wednesday’s national general strike.

Themba Godi’s African Peoples’ Convention sympathised with Saftu while the federation’s leadership was expected to meet with the United Democratic Movement led by Bantu Holomisa and to lobby EFF and other parties to reject the amendments and the minimum wage.

Vavi urged the parties to speak out and reject the NMW and the labour amendment Bills.

“We make a call to every political party to support us and reject these amendments. We know that some parties have come out clearly to reject them,” he said.

The strike is also supported by a host of civil society organisations. The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa is among unions strongly supporting the national action. 

Saftu president Mac Chabalala invited all the unions affiliated to Cosatu, Fedusa and Nactu federations to join the strike on Wednesday.

“The latest attacks include the increase in VAT, the fuel levy and the Road Accident Fund levy which will push up the price of nearly everything we buy,” Chabalala said.

Vavi described the proposed minimum wage of R20 per hour and the labour strike amendments as a “most frontal attack” on workers.

Vavi said the requirement for unions to conduct a secret ballot among its members prior to a strike was a violation of the workers’ constitutional right to strike. 

“Balloting is a choice that unions make before going on strike, they are not enforcing it…It’s a calculated strategy, it’s not even a camouflage,” Vavi said.

Saftu said the main protest marches would be held to the labour department in Johannesburg, to parliament in Cape Town and to the City Hall in Durban. Other marches had been organised in Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein and Polokwane.

Also read: Saftu stands firm on its opposition to ‘the poverty national minimum wage’

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