Johannesburg - Thousands of people, most of them clad in red t-shirts, braved the sweltering highveld heat and marched through the Johannesburg city centre in support of the call by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) call for a nationwide, multi-sector strike.
Among others, the workers marched for decent jobs, an end to retrenchments and the scrapping of the controversial e-tolls. Today is the International Day of Decent Work.
The workers handed memoranda to FNB Bankcity, Gauteng Premier David Makhura's office and the Chamber of Mines. The socio-economic march is protected by the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac).
At Bankcity, Cosatu bemoaned foreign ownership in the banking sector, saying this would result in capital flight. They cited Barclays Bank's ownership of Absa as well as Industrial and Commercial Bank of China's 20% stake in Standard Bank.
By Wednesday afternoon none of the business bodies had commented on the economic impact of the strike.
Nedlac has also given National Union if Metalworkers (Numsa) permission to march against corruption on 14 October.
The Free Market Foundation's executive director Leon Louw said on Wednesday, while the foundation supported the actions Cosatu took on behalf of its members, the federation’s demands would make it harder for the unemployed to get jobs.
If the cost, risk and difficulty of employing people are higher, people whose productive capacity is less than the threshold cannot be employed. That includes unskilled, elderly and youth, over half of whom have never had a job, and are denied learning on-the-job skills, according to Louw.
He said Cosatu's demands could also drive small businesses out of business.
“It would normally not be necessary to ask a trade union to consider the interests of non-members, but with our extreme crisis of low growth, the world's highest level of sustained unemployment, rising inequality, and unsustainable poverty, we implore Cosatu to keep demands and expectations within reasonable limits," said Louw.
“We know that is counter-intuitive for a union federation, and we know they have to make strident demands to combat threats from rival unions, but the country is in such a dire crisis, that Cosatu should rise above narrow interests in the greater national interest.”