Labour Wrap: A week of shattered expectations


IT'S been a tumultuous week so far, but also a week in which a couple of naive expectations were shattered. Prime among these was that President Jacob Zuma was on his way out.

Another was that the millions of the working poor would receive the long-awaited minimum wage and that, with the festive season approaching, employment would pick up. It all amounted to wishful thinking.

Those who believed that Zuma’s presidential days were numbered looked to the ongoing and bitter internecine feuding within the ANC-led alliance. Especially to the fact that representatives of some 200 protesting anti-Zuma “stalwarts” - ANC veterans - were finally meeting with the party leadership. But this was a case of much furious sound resulting in little of substance.

Much the same applied to the Cosatu executive, despite the fact that its biggest public sector affiliate, Nehawu, had broken ranks in calling for the president to step down.  

It may be foolhardy in such politically chaotic circumstances to predict what may happen next week, let alone next month or year. But to me it seems almost certain that President Zuma will remain in place - at least until the end of his term in 2019.

The biggest disappointment came from the ranks of the low paid, many of whom thought the minimum wage announcement would signal an improvement in their lot. The R20 an hour, R3 440 a month - still inadequate - that was announced would, however, have improved matters for millions of workers.

But there is no fixed timescale for implementation of a sum that might have seemed barely adequate two years ago when these minimum wage talks first began. The proposal is that this minimum wage will be phased in in two to three years, and this at a time when the statistician general has announced the highest unemployment rate in 13 years.

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