Thousands of workers under the banner of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) took to the streets in Port Elizabeth today to join a countrywide strike to protest against the proposed national minimum wage of R20 per hour or a R3 500 per month salary.
The R20 minimum wage was set to be implemented on May 1 but has since been postponed due to parliamentary processes.
The protest kicked off outside Centenary Hall in New Brighton with workers marching for close on three hours to reach Nelson Mandela Bay City Hall.
Members from the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) joined the protest action with a heavy police presence keeping a watchful eye.
As protesters lined the streets in a sea of red, shop owners closed their doors as a precautionary measure.
By the time the gathering reached City Hall, the number of supporters had dwindled.
Addressing the crowd, National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) President Andrew Chirwa took a swipe at President Cyril Ramaphosa saying that there was “no new dawn” in the country.
Chirwa said that government had launched an attack against workers valuing them at a mere R20 per hour.
“The new dawn is R20 per hour, the new dawn is 15 percent vat, the new dawn is that the right to strike will be taken away. Those who are confused about December, there is no new dawn. This is the same wine in different packaging,” said Chirwa.
“Any collective bargaining without a right to strike is collective begging it’s not bargaining. We have no weapon against the bosses. We have no guns against the bosses, we have nothing except the power to withdraw our labour. When you take that power away you are making us vulnerable to the already ruthless bosses who are sitting in boardrooms plotting how to exploit us better and how to keep our wages as low as possible.”
He launched a scathing attacking on what he called a black government who were legalising poverty.
“De Klerk and Botha never did this but our own black government decided to legalise poverty. They don’t understand the pain, they don’t know that you can’t do anything with a R20. They are deliberately ignoring an apartheid wage gap, white people earn better than black people.”
Chirwa said people swimming in wealth were the ones who were decided R20 per hour was sufficient for workers.
National Treasurer of the South African Liberated Public Sector Workers Union (Salipswu), an affiliate of Saftu, Gordon Maseko said the minimum wage was problematic for workers, considering inflation.
Maseko said workers would never see the table of civilization as diners but rather as waiters and on that basis the union rejected the minimum wage and also rejected the labour law amendments which they claim attempts to silence them.
Saftu believes the Labour Laws Amendments Bill is a “frontal assault on the constitutionally guaranteed right to strike and to bargain collectively”.
“The labour brokering, this is another punishable enterprise by the employer to continually destroy the worker. We believe we are deep in poverty and we cannot remain in that status quo. It’s 2018 we deserve better salaries and better labour laws that protect and at the same time opens a floor so we can engage with the employer,” said Gordon. Gordon believes that the unions who did not support Saftu’s march on Wednesday, continue to defend the “master”.
A memorandum of demands was subsequently handed over to a representative from the department of labour.
– African News Agency (ANA)