Cosatu calls for national stayaway on Thursday over SA's 'economic mess'

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The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) leads a march (Photo by Gallo Images/Ziyaad Douglas)
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) leads a march (Photo by Gallo Images/Ziyaad Douglas)
  • Cosatu called on all workers and South Africans to join the strike on Thursday by withdrawing their labour and staying at home.
  • The labour federation said it wanted the reversal of budget cuts that have led to an unacceptable wage freeze in the public service.
  • The federation also voiced its support for unions outside of it that were engaged in strikes and negotiations in various sectors.


The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) called for organised labour to join in a strike by staying away from work in an effort to apply pressure on government and the private sector to "fix the economic mess that the country finds itself in".

The action coincides with the Global Day for Decent Work, but also comes as South Africa continues to struggle with lacklustre growth, rising unemployment, the throes of the Covid-19 pandemic and the after-effects of July's unrest.

Cosatu, as the labour federation ally of the governing ANC, has also seen its own political challenges in the past decade, including the exodus of some of its largest and most organised unions like the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa).

The labour federation recently held its central committee last month, looking to renew its commitment to workers' rights and a programme to increase recruitment numbers during a period that has been difficult for all unions and labour federations.

The public service wage talks and the municipal wage talks did not produce the desired results for Cosatu-allied unions. In a statement released on Tuesday, Cosatu called on all workers and South Africans to join the strike on Thursday by withdrawing their labour and staying at home on the day. 

"The strike on Thursday is legally protected and is focused on pushing both government and the private sector to act to fix the economic mess that the country finds itself in and take seriously the issues that are affecting workers and South Africans in general," the statement said. 

The labour federation said it wanted the reversal of budget cuts that have "led to an unacceptable wage freeze in the public service, the disintegration of the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration, and retrenchments in state-owned companies".

"We will also be calling on the private sector to abandon its investment strike that has seen many companies either hoarding or exporting cash out of the country, despite receiving generous incentives to invest back into the economy," the federation said.

Cosatu said that at next month's medium-term budget policy statement, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana must abandon "current draconian cuts" and move away from the current "neoliberal macroeconomic policy framework".

"It is also disheartening that government is reacting to the Covid-19 inspired economic crisis by going back to the old logic of GEAR (Growth, Employment and Redistribution), in the sense that it is selling some of its state-owned companies like SAA (South African Airways) and unbundling Transnet to prepare for its privatisation," the statement said.

The federation tipped its hat in support to unions like the National Union of Mineworkers, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, Solidarity, UASA and Numsa that are engaged in strikes and negotiations in various sectors.

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