Vavi: Saftu strike a fight about the life and death of unions

Zwelinzima Vavi.
Zwelinzima Vavi.

Johannesburg – The South African Federation of Trade Unions on Monday urged workers to support the upcoming nationwide strike called to protest labour law amendments, regardless of their union affiliation.

The one-day strike is set to take place on Wednesday

The federation has strongly rejected a raft of amendments which would result in the implementation a R20 per hour minimum wage, and curb certain union rights to protest.

Saftu has maintained that the proposed level for the minimum wage would “lower the workers’ living standard and widen income inequalities".

The federation said it is opposed to the idea that R20 basic pay per hour is "better than nothing", in the face of growing inequalities and rampant unemployment.

“We want every worker to support our march on Wednesday, regardless of their affiliation or wage level,” Saftu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi told journalists at a briefing in Johannesburg on Monday.

“This is a fight about the life and death of unions, if we sit back and do nothing we might as well close shop,” he said.

Saftu is the country’s second largest union federation after Cosatu. It represents 30 unions, including the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa. 

The federation has also referred to the proposed national minimum wage as a "slave wage".

Earlier this month Saftu members marched to Parliament to raise their concern about the proposed amendments, including the recently enforced 1% increase in the rate of value-added tax.

The National Minimum Wage Bill, the Labour Relations Bill and the Basic Conditions of Employment Bill are expected to be passed before the May 1 date initially set by government.

If passed, the National Minimum Wage Bill would make R20 per hour a basic minimum pay for workers.

The Department of Labour is currently considering submissions on the draft bills following concerns by various stakeholders over some of the key provisions, which the unions claim would affect their right to strike.

Vavi said Saftu has made representations to Parliament demanding that the bills be returned to the National Economic Development and Labour Council to allow for broader public participation.

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