Saftu takes to the streets to protest VAT hike, minimum wage


Cape Town – The South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) has taken to the streets of Cape Town and was marching on Parliament on Thursday to make known the plight of the working class and poor South Africans.

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Issues the trade union federation wants to highlight include the increase in value-added tax, amendments to labour laws and the national minimum wage.

Workers represented by Saftu gathered early on Thursday next to the Cape Town campus of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) before marching to Parliament under the leadership of secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi.

They are raising issues related to the VAT increase, the national minimum wage and the water crisis in the Western Cape.

Saftu is South Africa's second largest union federation after Cosatu, representing 30 unions, including the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa. It was launched in April 2017 and according to Saftu now represents over 800 000 workers.

Saftu recently made submissions to Parliament’s committee on labour on the national minimum wage and amendments to labour laws.

Saftu believes the labour bills “represent an assault on the constitutional(ly) guaranteed right to strike and to collectively bargain”, the federation said in a statement issued earlier this week.

'Upsets delicate balance'

“We believe that the bills upset the delicate balance that was struck between workers' and employers' rights in the Constitution.”

The federation is also of the view that the national minimum wage would entrench a “poverty” minimum wage.

“Saftu insists that the national minimum wage will do nothing except entrench the apartheid wage structure, keep millions of workers trapped in poverty and slave wages, (and) widen income inequalities that have made our country the most unequal in the world,” the statement read.

The implementation of the national minimum wage - set for May 1, 2018 - has been delayed. Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant explained at a press briefing in March that this is because of parliamentary processes which require time, Fin24 reported.

VAT, fuel levy hikes will increase poverty 

The federation further expressed its rejection of the VAT increase by one percentage point as well as fuel levy hikes, as they “exacerbate” inequality and poverty.

“The poor are not adequately protected from a VAT increase through existing zero-rating measures,” Saftu said.

Less than half of the poor’s food basket is spent on zero-rated goods, the federation explained.

Cape water crisis

Saftu is also raising its concerns over the management of the water crisis in the Western Cape. The federation particularly rejects the use of water management devices, saying that they essentially commoditise water.

“We accept we are in a drought... however, the bad management of the resource has led to this crisis.

“The City was aware of the crisis way back in 2003 and failed to take adequate steps to ameliorate the affects of the drought,” Saftu said.

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