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South Africa: Thousands on strike against poverty-level minimum wage

SAFTU statement on National Strike Today! 

 

 

SAFTU-led march – an historic victory for the workers
Wednesday 25 April 2018 will be recorded in the history of the South African trade union movement as an historic turning point, when workers took to the streets in their many thousands to demonstrate against a poverty minimum wage and amendments to labour laws which threaten the basic constitutional right to strike.
The South African Federation of Trade Unions congratulates and thanks all the members of its affiliated unions, civil society groups, political parties and members of the public who flooded the streets of Johannesburg, Cape

Town, Durban, PE, Bloemfontein and Polokwane, plus thousands more in rural areas and small towns who joined the protest by not working on the day.

The marchers delivered a thunderous warning shot to the government, employers and sweetheart union leaders that the people of South Arica are angrily opposed to the proposed national minimum wage of R20 an hour minimum wage, which entrenches poverty, legitimizes the apartheid wage gap and will keep thousands of workers in a daily struggle to survive, to feed the family and to pay for their children’s education.
It will make the world’s most unequal society even more unequal and leave millions of the poor effectively excluded from the economy with all their meagre income being used just to survive.
There is no less anger at the proposed bills to amend labour laws, which will make it even more difficult for workers to exercise their constitutional right to strike.
Existing laws already require secret ballots to be held before workers can get a certificate for a protected strike, which most unions already use but as decided democratically by the members, not imposed by government.
Under the new amendments unions will have to navigate even more procedural obstacles, including extra laws on how secret ballots must be conducted, an even longer period for conciliation and picketing rules to be drawn up before a strike can begin.
A new clause will allow employers to sit tight, make no attempt to negotiate and then go back to the CCMA and argue that the strike has been going on for ‘too long’  or is causing ‘too much damage’ and demand arbitration of the dispute, which will become compulsory unless unions object within a short period during which they have to consult their members. If they miss the deadline the arbitration can become compulsory, which would be an unconstitutional way to force workers back to work.
These bills will cause a particular problem for small unions with limited resources, and even more for groups of workers not in any union, who make up 76% of all employees but who have exactly the same constitutional right to strike. They cannot possibly comply with all these rules.
The effect of these bills will be to strengthen the power already dominant employers, and the teams of lawyers they hire to represent them. It will enable them emasculate trade unions, deny workers their basic human rights, allow their bosses to continue to exploit increasingly vulnerable workers and shift the blanch of power even further in their favour.
if passed, these bills will severely worsen the already desperate plight of millions of workers, who face more job losses, casualisation of labour, a rising cost of living after increases in VAT, fuel levy and road accident fund levy, and deplorable levels of service in education, healthcare, and all other essential services.
The bills have been referred back to the Department of Labour for redrafting to include the submissions made to the parliamentary Portfolio committee on labour, one of which was made by SAFTU on 17 April 2018.
The federation will study the new drafts and demand that they are referred back for further discussion by Nedlac, but a Nedlac with SAFTU admitted, so that we can expose and oppose the scandalous deal on the bills which leaders of COSATU, FEDUSA and NACTU negotiated behind workers’ backs and then signed off with government and business.
The bills will then return to Parliament and SAFTU will continue to persuade MPs to support its demands. Already we have convinced three parties to support our views – the Economic Freedom Fighters, the United Democratic Movement and the African People’s Convention. We hope to convince more, including some ANC MPs.
We are also taking legal on a possible court challenge to parts of the bills.
But our campaign will never depend on MPs or courts to succeed, but on more of what we saw today – mass action on the streets, which will get bigger each time, until we finally achieve are goals which are for a living minimum wage of R12 500 and amendments to labour laws to make it easier, not harder, for workers to be able to enjoy their constitutional right to strike.
Zwelinzima Vavi, SAFTU General Secretary: 079 182 4170
Moleko Phakedi, SAFTU Deputy General Secretary: 082 492 5111
Patrick Craven, SAFTU Acting Spokesperson: 061 636 6057

An analysis of the crises of Southern Africa

A situation characterised by increasing burden of parasitism on the working people

Southern Africa is in the throes of economic and political crises in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola.

In South Africa there’s a louder and louder clamour even from the ranks of the ANC itself for President Zuma’s removal on the misleading conception of so-called State capture. Zuma’s relationship with the Guptas is put forward as ‘State Capture’.

(The fact is that the ANC State was always a comprador State for the ruling classes of South Africa. In this sense the State was ‘captured’ long before the Guptas. Police Chief Jackie Selebi’s undignified relationships with organised gangsters uncovered in 2010 and the Marikana Massacre of miners in 2012 amongst general caretaking were adequate proof of the aforesaid.)

Nevertheless, the South African State is all but bankrupt and the mismanagement of central institutions such as ESKOM (the power utility), which is now under investigation for ‘State Capture’, and the State’s endangering and intrinsic inability to develop adequate infrastructure for capitalism are undoubtedly major issues behind the demand instigated by the ruling classes. Continue reading

Why they voted leave

Mirek Vodslon, 5 July 2016

“Why we voted leave: voices from northern England” is the title of a documentary (https://vimeo.com/172932182) which is really worth giving some thought to. To be more exact, it is a militant message in the form of a documentary. In just under 12 minutes it also shows some of the problems with the Lexit (“left exit”) or “socialist Brexit” position. It was “filmed and edited by Sheena Sumaria, Guerrera Films”, is being advertised by the left group “Counterfire” and shows an anonymous interviewer speaking to five other persons, also unnamed, a Remain voter and four Leave voters in Doncaster.

The supposed need to “take our country back” or “make Britain Britain again” comes up early on. These concerns are first and foremost on the minds of two interviewees. The main reason (mentioned by one of these workers) is to control immigration. Continue reading

What next for Greece (and Europe)?

THE SYRIZA-led Greek government made a bid to reverse the appalling and humiliating conditions laid upon the country by the Troika (European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund).

The fiasco that followed deserves careful consideration by all trade unionists, socialists and working people more broadly.

SYRIZA is a coalition built around forces coming from the Euro-Communist sector which several decades ago split from the old KKE (Greek Communist Party). They promised a new kind of “left” politics, breaking the mould of sectarian wrangling over ideological shibboleths. (In the process they junked a number of political principles also, in particular the understanding of the basic conflict in society between capital and labour).

With the shock of the country’s bankruptcy and the fateful “Memoranda” reverberating around Greek society, with masses of people going, in real confusion, into semi-permanent occupation of the city squares, it was the coalition which became SYRIZA which captured the popular mood.  Continue reading

APPEAL TO SUPPORT THE RESISTING GREEK PEOPLE and its TRUTH COMMISSION ON PUBLIC DEBT – FOR THE PEOPLES’ RIGHT TO AUDIT PUBLIC DEBT

To the people of Europe and the whole world!

To all the men and women who reject the politics of austerity and are not willing to pay a public debt which is strangling us and which was agreed to behind our backs and against our interests.

We signatories to this appeal stand by the Greek people who, through their vote at the election of 25th January 2015, became the first population in Europe and in the Northern hemisphere to have rejected the politics of austerity imposed to pay an alleged public debt which was negotiated by those on top without the people and against the people.  At the same time we consider that the setting up of the Greek Public Debt Truth Commission at the initiative of the president of the Greek Parliament constitutes a historic event, of crucial importance not only for the Greek people but also for the people of Europe and the whole world! Continue reading

AN APPEAL TO THE INTERNATIONAL LABOUR COMMUNITY FROM THE WORKERS OF DITA FACTORY, TUZLA, BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

We, the workers of Tuzla-based detergent factory DITA, have been fighting a wave of corrupt privatisation, exploitation and asset stripping that is destroying the industry of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

For over two years now, we have guarded our factory around the clock to prevent the removal of machinery and assets.

The process of privatisation of DITA was carried out in collaboration with corrupt politicians, judiciary and banks, which failed to carry out due diligence, and provided toxic loans to the new owners – money that never reached the factory.

Our country is suffering from lack of rule of law: criminal elites have pushed through amendments to the criminal code that mean there is no court that can try financial and trade crimes. Continue reading

Working people in Bosnia at the end of their tether: Two Tuzla workers – former combatants – plan suicide.

(Since this article was written, we have learnt that the press and the police were following the marchers and the police confiscated the petrol cans along the way. Fearing that they might actually do as they threatened, the Sarajevo government gave the two a fictitious minimum-wage factory job for a year. They came back home alive.)

200 Tuzla workers set off on the “One-Way March” to the Croatian border at Orasje, saying they didn’t want to stay in their own country without jobs or a future (See “A cauldron ready to blow”, Workers’ International Journal no 10, January 2015). There has been an exodus of tens of thousands of Kosovars and their families to Europe. Although the guns have fallen silent, death still stalks the Balkans. Tossed on the scrap heap like a load of rusting machinery, and not having any political perspectives, the working class is condemned to gestures of despair. Continue reading

Workers’ Front Croatia: An interview with DIMITRIJE BIRAC

‘Yes, we want to abolish capitalism’

One of the founders of Workers’ Front says: “Our final goal and the character of the party are anti-capitalist, and our current aim is to show that all the problems we talk about, such as unemployment and the collapse in production, are consequences of the socio-economic system, and not of the success of failure of this or that economic policy”.

Q: Worker’s Front has been organising for six months or so, but last week you decided to show yourselves in public. Who belongs to your organisation beside the linguist Mate Kapovic and the trade unionist Denis Geto?

DB: Mainly young people, activists, workers, students, unemployed people. We will introduce some of them to show that it’s not limited to a tiny group.

Our organisation is working along two lines: The first is to work on the infrastructures in  different towns, the second is to form links with working people, to support workers’ protest demonstrations and to get in touch with various trade unionists, particularly those who want to put up a struggle.

We are open to all those who are interested in changing society in line with our principles and transitional demands. Continue reading

Croatia: Programmatic Principles of the Workers’ Front

See also the Invitation to a conference in Zagreb

  1. The Workers’ Front is a political organization of workers, unemployed, retirees and students, fighting for a radical change of political and economic relations for the benefit of all oppressed and those who live off their work, for realisation of their social demands, and for protection and extension of their rights.

Unlike the existing parliamentary parties in Croatia, including those which in a populist and opportunist way occasionally appeal to workers, the Workers’ Front does not aim to establish itself as a traditional political party. Our goal is not to get integrated in the institutions of the system and secure parliamentary seats, salaries and pensions through petty politicking or to advocate only surface reforms, make different coalitions and compromise with those who are responsible for the current situation in the country.

The goal of the Workers’ Front is to bring about a radical change of the society we live in through a political struggle, both on economic and political levels. Therefore, participation in elections would only be one of the means to achieve our goals. In order to be able to accomplish this, we must build an organization rooted in workplaces and connected with everyday social struggle of the disenfranchised.

Unlike the existing political parties, our organization will be truly democratic within itself but act in a disciplined and effective manner. We strive for an organization of activists who would continuously be engaged in trade union, women’s rights and students’ movement, as well as in the struggle for the rights of all oppressed social groups. Continue reading

Bosnia: A cauldron ready to blow?

RADOSLAV PAVLOVIC recorded a day of high drama as workers in Tuzla marched to the border

Sunday 28 December, 2014: 09:00: As I write, high-tension developments are unfolding in the class struggle in Bosnia-Herzegovina. No-one can tell in advance how it will play out.

Ten minutes ago, 200 workers from 4 firms in Tuzla   ̶ Dita, Konjuh, Aida and Livnica (detergents, timber processing and furniture-making, shoe-making and a foundry)   ̶   gathering at the Croatian border in Orasje, decided to actually leave the country and go looking for work and a crust of bread anywhere in Europe. They don’t even know if they will be let over the border, but what they do know is that this is their last hope; they are fighting a life-and-death struggle at the highest political level. They have nothing to lose: they weren’t even able to afford cheap sweets to give their children for Christmas.

Tensions

Tensions have been building up for years, and it has picked up pace since the revolt in February whose sparks ignited explosions in big towns all over the country. But none of their demands were met. What’s worse was the feeling hundreds of thousands of workers in this country had that they were being treated like worse than beggars, like idiots. Over recent months, especially in recent weeks, they have knocked on every door, lobbied all the politicians, demonstrated in the street, occupied cross-roads, even slept on the steps outside the canton government building so that freshly-shaven cabinet ministers could meet them to examine the unbearable situation. They got nowhere! Continue reading