Cosatu scraps tax protest, but March strike is still on

A file photo of Cosatu members marching through the streets of Johannesburg. (Picture: Felix Dlangamandla/Beeld)
A file photo of Cosatu members marching through the streets of Johannesburg. (Picture: Felix Dlangamandla/Beeld)

Cape Town – The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) said on Friday that it has cancelled its planned protest over the implementation of the amended tax laws on Sunday, but that its national strike planned for March is still on.

This followed the announcement by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan on Thursday that Treasury has proposed postponing implementation of certain provisions in the new tax laws for two years, from March 1 2016 to March 1 2018.

The 2015 Taxation Laws Amendment Act and the Tax Administration Laws Amendment Act were meant to come into effect on March 1, and would have seen workers who have contributed to provident funds no longer being able to cash in their entire retirement savings on resignation.

“Huge pressures asserted by Cosatu have forced government to backtrack on the implementation of the amended tax laws, which will affect worker pensions and provident funds,” Cosatu Western Cape regional secretary Tony Ehrenreich said in a statement on Friday.

“Government has acceded to a two-year delay which will see discussions at Nedlac continue, where Cosatu will continue to ensure the protection of our members’ interest,” he said.

Cosatu members in the Western Cape had planned to protest on Sunday to hand over a memorandum to Gordhan, to express their “deep anger at these laws, unilaterally implemented while negotiations were under way and not concluded at Nedlac”.

“These laws effectively will undermine workers’ right to choose,” said Ehrenreich.

Cosatu pushes government to cancel section in bill or face strike

Cosatu’s national strike on the tax laws is still planned to start in March, but further engagements with government could change that, Cosatu national spokesperson Sizwe Pamla told Fin24 on Friday.

Cosatu will urge government to cancel the section of the bill they suspended on Thursday, said Pamla.

“The status quo remains, but the central committee is meeting on Tuesday to decide the way forward, the decision of which we will announce on Thursday,” he said.

If government agrees to cancel the section, they will only be able to change the law in two years’ time, due to the two-year hiatus period required after a bill is signed into law, explained Pamla.

“Therefore, Cosatu will require government to give their commitment to scrap this section of the bill when those years are up,” he said.

"The ultimate victory will be the total scrapping of those aspects of the law that workers do not want," Pamla said in a statement on Thursday.

"Until such time that we have a commitment from government, that they will expunge the aspects of preservation and annuitisation from the law, we will not be satisfied. We will continue to intensify our mobilisation until we get a clear resolution on this matter.

"The campaign that was launched earlier this month and the strike planned for the beginning of March will continue, until the identified aspects of the law are scrapped," he said.

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