7 July, 2023South African workers fed up with corruption, crime, high levels of unemployment, rising inflation and gender-based violence downed tools yesterday in a national day of action on 6 July.
Workers from all over the country participated in a protected strike organized by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). IndustriALL affiliates, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (SACTWU) were present at the marches. The unions are also affiliated to COSATU.
A section 77 strike certificate was issued by the National Economic Development and Labour Council NEDLAC. This certificate guarantees that all workers can join the strike without facing dismissals.
Different parts of the country had streets filled with workers demanding an end to the social, economic, and political crisis which has worsened poverty and inequality.
In Cape Town workers marched to parliament to hand over a memorandum demanding that government and the private sector stop the attack on collective bargaining, prevent corruption and crime, reduce high interest rates, stop job losses and privatization.
André Kriel, SACTWU general secretary, addressed workers outside parliament:
“We are facing a dire unemployment crisis and we call on the government to formulate policies to address this. Gender-based violence is on the rise, our government has ratified ILO Convention 190, but ratification is not enough, government must take active steps to implement this ratification and end gender-based violence in the workplace.”
In Johannesburg, workers marched to the offices of the department of employment and labour, the South African Local Government Authority, South Africa Human Rights Council, and the Provincial Premier with similar demands.
The workers want better crime prevention and anti-corruption measures, improved service delivery by municipalities to end the water crisis, and an energy strategy to stop the ongoing electricity cuts. According to the South African Police Service (SAPS), most murders occur during robberies in people’s homes, and most crimes that include robbery and assault are increasing. Additionally, corruption continues to hamper economic growth and development.
Decent jobs were under threat after 21 000 jobs were lost from January to March 2023 bringing unemployment figures to over 10 million, according to Statistics South Africa. Workers at the marches said most jobs were becoming precarious, and the increasing cost of living left them in worse off positions as the value of their wages declined.
Duncan Luvuno, NUM health and safety national chairperson said:
“Workers are beginning to see that they have the power to change the narrative by going back to the streets to fight for their demands and are not only relying on boardroom negotiations. Through the streets workers are realizing that they are their own liberators as some of their campaigns including for the national health insurance are becoming a reality.”
Despite many laws and policies including the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, and the Domestic Violence Amendment Act, and the ratification of Convention 190, gender-based violence and harassment continues to make the country one of most unsafe places for working women. Crime statistics state that 10 512 women were raped from January to March this year. Further, women face sexual harassment, and some have been killed at work. Homes are not safe either with domestic violence common.
Presenting the COSATU petition to the Department of Employment and Labour, Susan Khumalo, IndustriALL Sub Saharan Africa regional co-chair and SACTWU 1st deputy president said:
“Gender-based violence continues to be an atrocity against women. But as unions, we would like the government and the police to play their part in ending the scourge through prosecution and imprisonment of perpetrators. Employers should also make workplaces safer environments for women workers.”